Monday, July 10, 2006


A friend emailed me yesterday to let me know her cell phone had broken, so I wouldn’t be alarmed if I tried to reach her and got the “out of service” message. That got me to pondering how much our expectations have changed within my own lifetime…

It boils down to the quality of things. As I think about it, the quality of darned near everything I use has radically improved during my lifetime. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, when we went to use anything more complex than a salt shaker, we were a little surprised when it worked, and not at all surprised if it failed. Today when we use things with thousands, or even millions, of parts, we’re very surprised when it fails, and completely unsurprised if it works. We take our gadgets for granted.

But it occurred to me that it’s not just gadgets that have improved; it’s much more basic things as well. Tires for our cars are a good example — my first car (a 1965 Dodge Dart, and what a misnomer that is!) got flat tires quite regularly, and the tread on those tires sure didn’t last very long. I had to check the pressures, and put air in, on an almost daily basis. What a difference today, where one of the major contribution to tire failure — what little there is — is that owners never check the pressure.

If you stop and think about it, I’ll be you can think of all sorts of things like this in your own experience. I remember when ballpoint pens didn’t necessarily work when you bought a new one, and they weren’t cheap, disposable things, either. I remember leaking cans of food in the grocery store — when’s the last time you ever saw a leaking can? I remember carrying basic tools and spare parts in my car — and using them. I remember buying simple tools at the hardware store, and then discovering they were broken when I got home. Now I pay much less for the same tools (in real dollars), and they’re vastly better tools.

How about you? Do you have the same sense?

No comments:

Post a Comment