A coffee shop in Ipswich, UK

The man in front of me, who is about my age, is casting a wistful eye over a car built 40-plus years ago. “They don’t build them like that any more,” he mumbles to his friend.

My reaction: thank goodness! I remember motoring 40 years ago – the vehicles were crap. Poorly designed, uncomfortable, awful performance, noisy and worst of all unreliable. On a winter morning when it was nice and frosty, a series of incantations were advisable if you were to stand any chance of getting a car to start first time.

It always seems to me that most people view the past through rose-tinted glasses. Pound for pound, we are all driving Rolls Royce-quality vehicles today.

How come? Automation! People have been removed in large numbers from the design and construction process through the use of CAD and robotic production and assembly. If you want something built with precision, call in the machines – people make mistakes, fudge and generally turn out second-rate products.

In any case we no longer have the physical dexterity or optical acuity necessary to build cameras, phones, computers or anything else including the finer elements of automobiles. And come to think about it, why would we want too?

I just replaced my laptop after 20 months because the RG45 (et al) connector is getting sloppy and has become prone to intermittent failure. A design fault? Perhaps!

For most people it wouldn’t be a problem but because I travel an awful lot all the connectors on my laptop get a thrashing. So for a lower price than my previous model I have 60 per cent more hard drive capacity, 50 per cent more RAM and a clock speed that is 30 per cent faster. I also have an illuminated keyboard, lots of new facilities and the latest version of the OS, which has some great new features.

Thank goodness hardware doesn’t last forever…

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