User Input

User Input: Affectionate Lightbulb Edition

Salton Hot Spot MW1

I have a 75 watt, glare free, long life
Harmony House light bulb in my toilet.
I have been living in the same apartment
for over two years now
and that bulb just keeps burning away.
I believe that it is fond of me.

I first read Affectionate Light Bulb, one of Hippie Freak-Out poet Richard Brautigan’s more cohesive poetic works, more than 30 years ago. Unlike the majority of his decidedly trippy, nonsensical pieces, it’s always stuck with me. Some inanimate objects seem to function so well, so much longer than expected, it’s easy to personify them and imagine they’re being loyal.

My most loyal gadget is the Salton Model MW-1 Hot Spot mug warmer my mother bought me as a Christmas gift in 1988 for around ten bucks. Rather cheap and disposable by consumer appliance standards, my particular Hot Spot is still chugging along after nearly 23 years of constant use. It sat in my dorm room in college, my classroom as a teacher for eight years, as well as a series of cubicle jobs as a graphic designer, database administrator, software engineer. It’s been left on for days at a time. It’s cracked, yellowed, worn, rusted and scratched, but it still keeps my morning coffee and afternoon cup of rooibos at just that perfect temperature that is piping hot, but still allows me to take a sizable gulp without fear of scalding my tongue. I wouldn’t trade it for two or three new ones.

What gadget or machine do you have that seems to be anthropomorphically loyal in its unexpected longevity?

  • dmilligan

    It's probably not a fair comparison, but I have a couple of old power tools that just keep going. A Skil wormdrive saw that at least 30 years old and refuses to die, and a Sioux drill that's at least 25 years old and I wouldn't part with it for the world. However tools are supposed to last, so that's why I say it's not fair. But that's all I got.

  • Like the good Professor, my longest-lived gadgets are tools. I have a functional B&D drill motor with a heavy cast aluminum housing that dates to the mid-60s. I don't use it much, though, as the newer stuff is more powerful and convenient.

    The one that gets used, though, is the inexpensive Allied soldering gun that my grandfather bought for me in the late 70s, to faciliate my installation of a rockin' Realistic stereo in his pickup. It wasn't until several years later, when I'd inherited this truck, that I discovered what a botch my 12 year old self made of that installation. God love Grampa, he never said a word.

    • I have a 1950s Mongomery Wards Powr-Kraft orbital sander I bought from an old guy down the block 6-8 years ago. Still works like a champ. In fact, I prefer the heft of its heavy cast-metal body over my modern, plastic-bodied B&D sander.

  • SSurfer321

    My graphing calculator. Bought it in 1996 before heading off to college. It's still next to me on my desk 16yrs later. I swear I don't know how to use anything else and fear the day it gives up the ghost.

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  • Deartháir

    You mean besides Techie, right?

    Mine is my old PowerMac G3. Loyal? That sucker still works, and would probably still be my day-to-day computer if I had the choice. I named it Palpatine, at a time long before anybody other than the most hardcore of Star Wars fans knew who Palpatine was. I flipped the switch the first time in August of 1999, and with the exception of a few moves from university and back, it ran 24/7 for the next decade and then some. I never had a single major crash, never actually lost any files — although I may have claimed to — and never was forced to restart unexpectedly… in a decade. Seriously, it's pretty hard not to develop a bit of loyalty to an inanimate object at that point.

  • tonyola

    I have a Panasonic RE-7500 AM/FM table radio that my parents gave me for Christmas in 1970. I still have it and use it – everything works and despite being mono, it puts out really impressive sound with a serious load of bass. Makes a Bose sound wimpy. It wasn't a cheap radio – I think my parents paid close to $100 for it. The picture is not mine but my radio looks identical.
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  • OA5599

    There are a few I won't mention here for fear of tempting fate.

    I will say that our microwave oven presents a bit of a conundrum. My wife got it as a hand-me-down and I think it dates to the early 80's. Modern microwaves seem to be so much smaller on the inside. Our current behemouth probably cost $2,000 in 2011-equivalent dollars, and a new one with all the bells and whistles would go for a tenth of that. Do we toss a perfectly-functioning Reagan-era appliance on the outside chance its radiation might cause extra testicles to form in undesired places, or do we keep it around in case we ever need to nuke a couple shelves' worth of dishes?

    • P161911

      Just last week our microwave died in a rather unusual fashion. The magnetron took on a life of it's own and decided to turn on and stay on without the accompanying fan. The glass plate on the turntable burst from overheating! Luckily my parents had a spare microwave in their basement.

    • Deartháir

      Ahh, the old Radiation King microwaves! You couldn't kill them with anything short of a direct nuclear strike… and in all honesty, they could probably create one of those inside them.

  • MrHowser

    Until last week, the Yamaha tuner/receiver combo my dad bought in the Navy was still plugging away in my living room. However, I've long been growing tired of the intermittent right channel, and broke down and bought a like-new Sony surround amp on Craigslist for $50. When money is a little less tight, the Yamaha (and the old HK/Kenwood combo I have in storage) will both go to the shop for diagnosis and repairs. Then, I'll just have to decide where I'm going to use two additional vintage stereos in my 900 square foot apartment. I foresee roses being a necessary expense in this project.

  • P161911

    The oldest functioning powered gadget in my household is probably the 1953 International Harvester refrigerator that is chugging away in my basement. Before that it sat in my grandparents basement. Other than a couple of moves and a few power outages this fridge has been running continuously without repair for at LEAST the last 38 years, probably much longer. It is about the only refrigerator that my family has owned that hasn't broken down at some point. According to the build tag is was built on December 24, 1953.

    The Israeli movers (scam artists) I hired to move into my current home were rather surprised by the weight of this rather smallish fridge and commented that it must be German made, I replied "No AMERICAN!"

    • I am pretty sure my grandmother's Pre-WWII era GE Monitor fridge is still functioning properly in my cousin's garage.

  • I have a little Marantz 2015 receiver sitting right here, hooked up to this computer. It's from the seventies, and I traded something, I forget what, for it and a ghetto blaster back in the early nineties, and it's been in use ever since. The knobs are getting kind of crunchy, so is the balance control, but the damn thing just keeps working fine. I've got it hooked up to two of those black aluminum Radio Shack Minumis 7 speakers, which have seen plenty of abuse. They just won't die, even after being knocked off the shelf by cats or me catching the speaker wire on something.

    • dmilligan

      Get some aerosol contact cleaner and spray it into the pots and crank the knobs back and forth over their entire travel. It should get rid of the crunch.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    I have a MW home stereo. I think it's from '82, was my parents and then uncle's before mine. The 8-track stopped working a few years back, and I replaced the turntable on top with a Panasonic a bit before that from a guy that owned an old Camry and 850 (good taste that guy) because mine was getting slow of all things. It's the best AM/FM tuner in the house, freakishly great compared to anything else. I have mounted it under an old TV cabinet so I can't use the tape deck anymore, that was a mistake on my part, doh. Back in college I made it into surround sound, ha! I spliced in two extra speaker jacks and used really long cables. I also made my own speakers, but I started with these Koss brand ones, cut out a hole on the bottom, added baffling material, then in the top put in a tweeter with some caps and a resistor. I tried some car speaker cones, but it was way too quiet, ha! I also tried to connect an NEC external CD-ROM for a CD player by splicing into the phono wires, second ha there. I did not know how distorted and crackly that would sound. Turns-out you would need a special pre-amp due to a trick used attenuate the signal so that the needle would not pop out of it's groove. Oh well, I know have it connected to some Sony speakers from a boom box that are way better than the originals or the ones I improved. I was such a hopeless nerd.

  • Back in the late 70's or early 80's (I was too young to remember), my uncle gave me an alarm clock radio. It was my first FM capable radio (FM stations were slow to appear in France where all the media is centralized in Paris and lots of it back then was owned by the government). Until July 1996, this device woke me up everyday to go to school and work. It never failed (unless there was a power outage and the backup 9V battery was flat). The only thing that went bad was the light bulb that lit the radio tuning area. It did not matter as I always listened to the same radio station (Couleur 3, from Switzerland).
    Since I moved 10000 miles away from it (could not take it with me as it only works on 220V/50Hz), it went on by itself, casting a pale red light on my former bedroom.
    I go back to visit my parents every few years and my old friend is still there, "ticking" away…

  • ptschett

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    I've had this clock radio since the late '80's, since I got it it's been through my parents' house, 2 dorm rooms at 2 different colleges, and 4 apartments in 3 different states. Its only real flaw is that the plastic button for hour-setting broke about 4 years ago, so since then I've stuck a pencil in the button's hole to directly activate the button on the circuit board.

  • craigsu

    Looking around I'd have to say it's our Sanyo 27" TV, purchased in 1986 and still going strong 25 years later. We've talked about getting a flat-panel TV for a couple of years now but finances just haven't allowed it. Combined with a DTV converter it will produce 480i viewing and we've actually had people tell us it has a better picture than their own flat-panels (which makes me wonder about the setup of their sets).