Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Good Old Days

I am a frequent sneerer at people who talk about how much better things were made in the old days. Liberals and conservatives both do this, just about different objects and institutions.  They are both usually wrong.  We view the past with a nostalgic haze, and would not like the world of even fifty years ago all that much.  Except, that is, for being more handsome and in better shape, of course.  But that is what is better about us in the old days, not what was better about the days themselves.

However. On the list of things that were objectively better, like the gasoline for small engines before ethanol screwed that up, I would like to mention wooden matches.  Because they are "green" now, they don't light as well. I'm annoyed at this every time.


Grim said...

Gasoline canisters, too, back when they were properly vented to pour correctly.

james said...

2x4 that were 2" by 4" That's way before my time, though.

Jonathan said...

Things made in China that used to be made here. Looking at, for example, toggle bolts from Home Depot. I found an old made-in-USA one and put it beside a new Chinese one. The old one has thicker metal in the wings, the threads are cut more cleanly, etc. Maybe, if they still made them here, they would be using thinner metal and looser tolerances just like the Chinese. Or not. Certainly the Chinese versions are less expensive, and that's a good quality. Tradeoffs.

Tom Bridgeland said...

Flush toilets. We keep a bucket of water in the bathroom to assist the flush.

Non-vented gasoline cans. I drilled a hole in the top of the can and put in a screw.

Car radios with touch screens. Total distraction trying to change stations. No fix.

Alcohol in gasoline so it burns out small engines like chain saws. I drive 10 miles out of my way to reach the only gasoline station in the region that offers pure gasoline.

On the other hand so many things are better. Clothing is so incredibly cheap, decent quality winter wear feels almost free.
The environment is so much better it's hard to believe after the fear-mongering I grew up with in the 1960s/70s. Wildlife that was rare or extinct locally is abundant to the point of being annoying. Beavers, deer, coyotes, hawks and eagles, goldfinches and many more, all rare or locally extinct when I was a kid and are now common. Clean air and water!

RichardJohnson said...

Good old days. These days, the Internet gives the home user information that was previously available only at university libraries or large city libraries. For example, World Bank data online was previously available only in thick volumes in some university libraries.

Good old days. The left didn't have the stranglehold on discourse in universities it has today. Yes, lefties were predominant back then, but those who disagreed with them didn't get the flack back then for openly disagreeing. There HAS been a march through the institutions.

Good old days. For those who want to pick up some repair skills, YouTube is a great place to go.

Schools of Education, judging from what my aunt- who taught nearly 4 decades beginning in the 1930s- said, are about as bad as they ever were. One time, when I was in Ed School, and complained to my aunt about the idiocies promoted in the Ed School, her reply was, "So what else is new?"

Farming is a lot more efficient today. The flip side is that while one used to be able to make a living on a quarter section (160 acres), today two or more sections (1280 + acres) are generally required.

No Dust Bowls today, which is an improvement.

Regarding industrial productivity, I am reminded that in the 1930s the Soviet Union purchased a number of US factory setups- from cars to steel mills- and it appeared that little had been done to upgrade them in the 5 decades until the fall of the Soviet Union.

David Foster said...

On many modern cars, the controls for heating/air conditioning are pretty poorly desired from a human-interface standpoint.

As a general matter, more use of knobs rather than multi-level menus would be a good thing.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I wonder if a preference for analog vs digital controls is simply what we were trained on. I like knobs as well.

Aggie said...

For all you gasoline can protesters out there, you just have to buy a 31/64" drill bit and some of these:


...and they pop right in. Me and all my subversive neighbors converted ours back over 2 years ago.

james said...

I think the knobs, especially for automobiles, are clearly superior--not just a matter of what you grew up with.
You do not need to look at the radio/ac/window_control at all. So long as you can drive one-handed (which you're going to wind up doing with touch-screen too), your fingers can feel for the knob and take effective control with very little attention on your part.

Christopher B said...

james is right. I recall reading that the armed forces are going back to mechanical interfaces on controls because you can operate them without losing visual focus. As an example, can anybody touch type on a smart phone?

james said...

FWIW, the Chrysler/Plymouth minivans have some of the radio controls paralleled in buttons on the inside of the steering wheel, where your fingers curl around. For some operations (e.g. volume control controlled by rocker switches) you don't even need to take a hand away from the wheel.

Estoy_Listo said...

Shoes. Shoes are cheap. Shoes were the big worry when I was a boy. Nearly all of life's essentials are now cheap and abundant--a glorious testament to free markets.

We called them kitchen matches. They were great fun. Break off a bunch of match heads, wrap them in foil, but not too tightly. Bomb's away!

Grim said...

Aggie -- I'll give that a try.