I don’t think this is going to come as a big surprise to anyone, but the older I get the more I find myself appreciating old stuff. What is surprising is that while this preference has an element of nostalgia about it that isn’t what it’s all about. Some old stuff is just better than new stuff, because new products don’t necessarily mean better products. Often products change because the new way of doing it is more profitable, not better.
Disposable, multi-blade razors are an example. These were invented not because we needed better razors; the manufacturers needed more profitable razors. There was nothing wrong with double-edged safety razors. Generally speaking they offer a better shave and are hugely more economical to use. They simply didn’t make as much money as the manufacturers wanted, so they offered a ‘new, improved’ product that wasn’t an improvement.
Major appliances, we have discovered, aren’t better unless you pay a huge premium. When we went to buy a new stove we were told that the anticipated lifespan of stoves for under a thousand dollars was three to five years. Sadly this was consistent with our own experience. While pondering our options we ran across a circa 1950 Hotpoint stove that worked and was in very good condition. “What the hell,” I told Linda. “It’s worked for the last sixty years, it isn’t likely to quit tomorrow.” In fact it has served us quite well for the last four years. When we can afford it we’ll have the wiring modernized to make it safer, but other than that were quite happy with it.
I shoot recreationally and sometimes hunt, and I’ve always had a thing for double-barreled shotguns. Now people make some damn nice shotguns these days. The problem is the price of admission is pretty high– the low end, good quality utilitarian guns start at around $800 and prices go up rapidly. How far up? How much have you got? If you really want to it’s not even difficult to drop 30-40 thousand on a shotgun. Obviously I am not going to be doing that short of winning the lottery. Honestly probably not even then.
Fortunately there is once again a ‘but…’ If you know what you are doing, shop carefully and are willing to accept some limitations you can pick up a damned nice antique double for a few hundred dollars. You will want to avoid modern Magnum and Express loads, but most of these guns are as usable today as they were a century ago when they were made. If you have any doubt you can always have a gunsmith look it over. Many of these weapons cross the line between craftsmanship and artistry, and the sheer joy of handling and examining these firearms is an exceptional value… not to mention you can actually shoot them.
Don’t get me wrong- the computer that I am typing this on is state-of-the-art. There are some areas where older is most definitely not better. Automobiles are an example. I love classic cars and I’ve owned and driven more than a few. I like the details and style, the feel of driving them and of having something special. But I don’t delude myself- modern cars are better. Period. A stock Honda Civic will eat a 1970’s vintage Ferrari Dino alive on a racetrack. Many old cars need the engine rebuilt every fifty thousand miles (or less.) Most modern cars will go further than that before they even need a tune-up. New cars accelerate better, go faster, stop quicker, use less fuel and have a host of safety systems undreamed of even a couple of decades ago.
Televisions, telephones, anything electronic is better now than it has ever been. We can keep a library on a device the size of a pack of cigarettes, and our entire ‘record’ collection will fit on a device the size of a matchbook- and the only reason it’s that big is to accommodate controls and a head-set. Information technology is advancing and it pays to keep up.
So I take my nostalgia with a grain of salt, but if something old is better I don’t go for something new just because it’s the latest and greatest, and I don’t go for something old just because it’s old. Moderation and a thoughtful level of balance… another old-fashioned idea.