Is the world a better place now than it was 30 years ago ?

30 years ago I was about 18 and had just started work doing an electrical apprenticeship with the local power authority. Life was really pretty easy; a 9 hour work day, regular pay, weekends and public holidays off.

Things have changed a bit now with higher prices, never enough time to do everything I want to and a government that seems determined to sell off the country with little regard for the future. Sometimes I wonder what it’s all for. Life seems to be passing by faster all the time, surviving day to day is becoming more stressful and I’ve forgotten what I was going to say next. Lunch time… I’ll get back to it later.

Devices and Appliances

30 years ago we had cars, radio and a television with a rounded glass screen in a solid wooden box and 2 or 3 badly ghosted low-res channels that showed far fewer adverts; although some were quite creative and entertaining. There seemed to be a lot of local content that was quite interesting; farming, history, nature programs, and I remember some good home handyman shows and an inventors program.

Now we’ve now got cell phones, computers, microwave ovens and big screen TVs. A small list of items that dominate our lives. These things are relatively small but consume a lot of our time and income and in reality provide little in return.

Cell Phones

These started off useful but have now gone too far. Some of the function of the current smart phone is handy, such as the camera, gps and a place to record contacts and notes. But for me that’s about it at the moment. One of the problems is that the device tries to do too much resulting in too much complexity and a overall reduction in usefulness. ie. the GPS takes too long to fix and the battery doesn’t last a day of GPS use. A cell phone has become a device many replace every year rather than the 5 or 6 years they should last.

For me, the best cellphone would be small and robust, do a 12 hour day of hiking in the hills, track and record my route using GPS, browse Google maps occasionally, make or receive the odd call, snap a few pictures and not use more than 35% of the battery (safety margin). Until it can do this, it’s a under-performing and over-priced gimic.

Every year there are dozens of new models and some would say, more for your money. I don’t really agree. You do get more features for the money; but how useful are these features and do they justify the cost of a new phone and the hundreds of hours spent setting up and learning how to use it? If it was 5x faster, or the battery lasted 2 or 3 times as long, or the audio quality significantly improved, then there may be reason to buy a new phone.

I suspect we are still 10 or more years away from a really good cell phone because it doesn’t suit sales and marketing to make this device. We will get this function when there is some other feature that forces 75% of users to upgrade every year.


I do like computers, but I know a bit about them and I use computers all the time.

I recently came across someone who did a community computer course (probably government funded), had a graduation, got a certificate….. and learned next to nothing. Two months later and the Windows computer was not working because it won’t boot, locks up, crashes or something.

BTW: I don’t “do” Windows any more; The time I wasted on that over the years. Now I don’t know enough about it; quite happy to forget what I did know; generally not interested.

The point is that computers or rather the OS and applications are still too complex for the most basic tasks; web browsing, email and school projects. It’s a tool, like pen and paper but it’s far too complex to use and far to easy to break. I blame Microsoft, but that’s another story.

I’m not interested in games, so I was not tied to Microsoft Windows. The best thing I did was switch to Linux years ago. I’ve been using Kubuntu for quite a few years now, which is reasonably Windows like and does “almost” everything I need. Anyone who says their preferred operating system does “everything” is a fanboy and does not rank well with me as an authority.

Microwave Ovens

This is one device that is well worth having, saves time, does a reasonable job when you know a few little things about it and is not difficult to use. I don’t think the microwave oven has changed much in almost 30 years.

My only complaint is that the manufacturers are trying to add unnecessary features. It needs a timer power setting and on/off button. Everything else is a waste of time, adds to complexity and wastes power. It doesn’t even need a clock, and should have zero standby power draw.

Big Screen TVs

I just don’t get it. But I’m probably weird by todays standards, as I haven’t had a TV channel in the house in quite a few years and can’t stand the stupidity of most modern content. I can’t think of a better way to dumb down the general population.

I don’t understand the fascination with bigger and higher resolution video displays. Sure, large, hi-res displays have their uses; but sitting all evening in front of a huge HD screen pumping out adverts, dumb-ass programs and news that’s been filtered for headlines and dramatic effect; I don’t get it.


30 years ago a young guy would buy a beat up old car and work on it. It was never likely to be much more than the banger it started out as but it was a project, relatively cheap, taught DIY skills and filled in a lot of spare time.

Cars back then were pretty simple, carburettors and if you were lucky a transistor assisted ignition. Often, the only electronics was the radio, and you had to install that yourself.

These days cars are better and worse. Better because they are more comfortable, more reliable, safer and use less fuel. Worse because they are too complex and contain too many features that are mostly unnecessary, there are too many models; therefore they are too expensive.

Many of them are too big; there are too many SUVs on city streets and in shopping centre car parks.

Old car DIY is dying out as old cars have been deemed unsafe and are being eliminated. There are the boy-racers modifying cars and some do very nice work, but they are mostly sinking far too much money into what were already nice cars. I wonder how much of this is DIY skill and how much is just expensive bolt on “bling”.

Time, Activities and Creativity

So now, between the long hours of work and the importance of big screen entertainment, there is no time left for creative activities, learning and personal improvement.

DIY, creating things and solving problems are fading skills.

Creative hobbies are not as important as they used to be. No.. I don’t count sport as a creative hobby, more like a video game that may improve fitness at the cost of other injuries.

Changes in the future

Maybe this will all have to change at some point in the future. When it costs too much to get anything done thanks to rules in the name of quality and safety, and the majority of the population cannot DIY or are not allowed to (the same rules), people may realize that the whole system is stupid and should be ignored in favour of a common sense approach.

This is an ongoing though………


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