100-Year-Old Technologies (That Haven’t Changed Much and Still Rock)


“They don’t make ’em like they used to,” many nostalgic, wistful people will say. There are two things wrong with that statement. The first is that it’s usually said as though that’s a bad thing. Most of the time, technology changes for the better. The other thing that’s wrong with that statement is that there are plenty of things we use today that we still make exactly like we used to. In fact, some things have barely changed at all in the century (or centuries!) since we invented them!

Here are three innovations of the past that we still use today, almost unchanged from their prototype.

The sailboat

Sure, it’s not quite as opulent and luxurious as a speedboat or a cabin cruiser. But the sailboat still has a lot of class to it, and it still provides a smooth and efficient ride. The nylon of the canvases may be stronger and lighter and the mast may be sturdier these days. But the sailboat is such a perfect feat of mechanics that its basic design has remained the same.

In fact, its invention doesn’t just date back to the previous century or two. The sailboat dates back to ancient civilization. We’re talking BCE here! And the functionality has barely changed in all that time.

The conveyor belt

It’s misleading to say that Henry Ford was the first person to use conveyor belts in his factories. It’s true that he was perhaps its most famous user. He used them to great effect to spurn the ‘Fordism’ revolution of mass production and consumption. But conveyor belts with designs not too different to those that Ford used dates back to the late eighteenth-century.

What Ford brought to the conveyor belt was the technology that complemented its functionality. The conveyor belt really hasn’t changed that much in all these years. From its beginning, it has been versatile enough to find use in many industries. To this day, companies like Conveyor Systems Ltd are providing these trustworthy machines to companies all over the world.

Landline telephones

Go on all you want about the obsolescence of landline telephones. The fact is that they’re still in wide use in the business world. This thriving nature is, sadly, not seen in homes. An estimated 41% of homes don’t even have landline telephones any more. The increase in mobile phones has directly affected the use of landlines.

So are landlines headed for extinction? I hope not. Think about it. When was the last time you had trouble hearing someone over a landline? Or lost signal? Let’s face it: despite the numerous innovations in the technology, mobile phones seem to be getting less and less reliable all the time. They’re not made to last; they’re made to last a brief period of time so you’ll fork out for another one after a year or two. The landline is still the king of reliability and sound quality. What’s more impressive is that they still work the exact same way that it did a hundred years ago. We’ve gotten rid of the middle-man operator of old, but the engineering is still unchanged.

So remember: if you want to invent a product or service, it’s not impossible for people to be using it centuries from now.