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I think it's that you don't notice things that work well. House foundations, light switches, filesystems, silicon manufacturing, water delivery, grocery store logistics, etc etc etc.

These are all things that most people never notice because they just work. It doesn't even occur to people day-to-day that these things can fail.

House foundations, light switches, and water delivery, along with the professions that install them, are all regulated and licensed. There is somewhat of a trend for the quality of those things to have regional variation, e.g., lower quality in places that have historically had weak code enforcement and weak unions. And yes, the regulation probably did make those things more expensive.

The filesystems example given by OP is an interesting counterpoint - Linux filesystems are the opposite of regulated, regionally varied, and expensive.

Well we also ended up with BTRFS raid5/6

I think "mature" is the more correct term. It's not the regulation, it's just that it's been vetted and repeated so many times that it has become rock solid.

This is why I never select cutting edge tech for our company - unless it's part of our area of expertise/innovation.

That's also true. Filesystems do have an advantage of being testable by millions of people, relatively stable from one user to another over the medium term, and at least the experts share their experiences. Also, there are no gaps in the regions that benefit from good filesystems. Regional enforcement means spotty enforcement.

As for expense, the reliability of the filesystem is free up to a certain point. There are system failure modes that have to be covered by hardware and admin expenses, such as decentralized backups (just one example off the top of my head).

File systems are very expensive. Not up front, but instead on failure. Bad/cheap file systems don't last long.

Maybe more expensive up front but probably cheaper in the long run!

I have two things in my possession that are wonders of engineering. One hair trimmer and one restaurant kitchen blender/kitchen multifunction machine. Both made in 1987 in East Germany.

The blender I bought second hand, and it came with a box of original replacement parts and specifications so detailed that I believe I could probably replace the motor if it ever fails (almost 6hp! Take that, Vitamix!). It makes nut butter in no time.

The trimmer could probably be used to cut down trees.

I love these machines, and if they ever fail I don't thing I could ever replace them with anything of similar quality. They are 35 years old. The electronics in the kitchen machine still look pristine. I keep all bearings well lubed. It runs like a Swiss watch. Only very loud.

is this not the very definition of survivorship bias though?

I have things from the 80s that, obviously, have lasted a long time. But I have owned things from that era that have failed and been forgotten about.

Incidentally I bought some boots this year that are expected to last (at a minimum) 10 years, and I suspect they would, but I can't know that until 10 years from now.

Heirloom quality is probably still a thing, but only discoverable when an item actually becomes an heirloom.

The above author mentions that these machines are from Eastern Germany. As I am from Eastern Germany myself, I can tell you that we had regulations in place, that machines had to last and had to be repairable. Those regulations came into place, because we had heavily resource problems.

Funfact: Those type of regulations are heavily discussed even these times again, when I look at EU right to be repair, or the discussions specifically around John Deere and the right to be repair.

A nice trivia fact I learned is that East Germany made the world's best selling digger. There's a fun documentary (in German) that covers this. The machine from the DDR is discussed starting at 27:53

Link = https://youtu.be/4TqJu0RS32w?t=1674

Maybe a good move, as we will be facing resource problems sooner than we like?

Not necessarily. I also have an East German blender, that's like 40 years old, and looks like hell, but works perfectly. I bought another one, since the old one was kinda hard to look at. It was a highly recommended somewhat upmarket type from a supposedly reputable brand.

It broke within 2 years..

I took it apart and discovered it was full of plastic gears on load bearing components which predictably got annihilated by wear and tear. The old one had metal ones.

I echo the article's sentiment that while cheap usually means bad, expensive stuff is usually indistinguishable in quality from mass-market stuff nowadays.

Probably. I don't have ten of these machines, so it is hard to make a general statement.

I mostly meant it as a comment on what the parent said; I could pay four times the price for something and have it last 35 years (which is 15x longer than the blender I had before it) I gladly would.

The fact that I can repair most of it is also a thing I miss in the things I buy today.

> is this not the very definition of survivorship bias though?

Not necessarily; it's also sufficient to consider the overall distribution of blenders and hair trimmers from the 80s that are still working compared to the distribution of items sold, which means it's also fairly easy to spot because people use their kitchen/bathroom appliances frequently and notice when exceptionally old ones still work.

If I could buy products that just work and don’t break, even if they cost 3x as much, they would pay for themselves with longer lifespans and less wasted productivity.

Historically you shd buy Miele then.

I replaced my 21 year old Miele washing machine recently. The solenoid-driven water intake valve broke. It wasn't a part of the machine itself, it was on the water intake tube. But the replacement part was nearly half the price of the brand new replacement Miele washing machine I ended up buying instead. The new one is slightly larger and has higher capacity, and doesn't suffer from a little design problem the original had, so I was ok with getting a new one. But yes, the original washing machine worked exactly as when it was brand new - it was just that intake valve on the tube.

Ha. I just recently cleaned all hoses of our 10 year old one (all were quite ok to reach) and hope to have it another 10 years.

For some products. Even they have some crap (in-wall espresso…)

Yeah, "historically"... But not any more.

Past performance is unfortunately not a safe marker for future performance.

Just like a quality automobile, to bring the discussion closer to the article. For example, a Tesla Model 3 might cost more than a Hyundai I10, but after three years of ownership you've not had to change the oil, fill it with gas, get the tailpipe emissions inspected, possibly see the catalytic converter stolen, etc. And the difference in maintenance only grows from there, when the plugs and timing belt and seals and transmission and other items wear.

Lots of products have more expensive buy-in buy are cheaper in the long run.

I drive another manufacturer's equivalent of the Hyundai you mention, their lowest end car that they actually quit manufacturing, and I am sure the Hyundai is in the same ballpark.

I change the oil about twice a year. Over the past eight years, that has cost me about $480.

I have changed the transmission fluid three times. That has cost me about $140.

I've changed the air filter a couple times...not very often. Let's be generous and call it $40.

Around 120k I replaced the spark plugs. They were weirdly expensive, costing about $100.

I have performed no other maintenance.

I have filled it with gas about once a week. It's a pretty small tank. I'd estimate about $6000-$8000.

Add all that up, pretend electricity is free, and I have still come out way, way, way ahead versus buying a Model 3. I've still spent less than half of what I would have on a Model 3.

I hate to sound like I'm advocating for Sunk Cost, but this helps put numbers to a feeling I've had:

The current cost-over-time of my (and apparently your) ICE car is not meaningfully high enough to want to 'upgrade' to an all-electric. Plus, when mechanical problems eventually arise, there's already a somewhat-independent parts and labor infrastructure to lean on to get it back on the road.

On a personal level, I'm also opposed to giving Elon more money, and opposed to the idea that my car may brick itself with an auto-update. I also got a promotional 0% loan on my car, have zero intention of paying that off early, and can see this car lasting until 2028 or 2030. Unless I have kids, this car should be fine for my needs until then.

Thank you for the counterpoint. I concede that my idea of what a modern motor vehicle is is outdated. I'm actually happy to see that things have improved so much.

Ehm, doesn’t Tesla have famously bad quality control in several areas, e.g. fit of body panels? EVs, as a category, need less maintenance - but Tesla’s are not an example of a trouble-free product!

(They are legitimately cool though!)

Sure, the early Model 3's had body panel fit problems. I actually bought one last week, and the fit is amazing, both interior and exterior. I don't know why that point keeps coming up. For what it's worth, I used to be a tech at a Ford dealer, so I know what bad fitment looks like!

Initial news always spreads further and faster than updates. This is normal and should have been expected by the company. They took the risk of rushing and get to suffer the consequences.

Is there any car company that has not had recalls? Toyota had airbags exploding with metal fragments, killing drivers. Yet that recall is nowhere near as well-known as Tesla body panels not lining up.

Also, I've driven a Hyundai i10 for the last 10 years and it's been very reliable. Maybe because I don't drive that much to begin with, but still.

How many miles are you putting on that i10?! An oil change is every 2 years or 15k km. I think it’s a bad example btw, it’s a famously reliable car (the taxi of choice in Bogota fwiw)

Many Americans drive 15k (9,000 miles) in 6 months

For some reason people in the US are obsessed with changing the oil in their vehicle.

Modern engines & oils don't need the oil changing every 3000 miles, but the folklore belief in the necessity of doing so rolls on unstoppably in the USA.

A factor is oil change shops still put a sticker on the windshield that says to come back in 3000 miles. It's of course in their interest for people to change their oil too often.

I have both, two modern cars with services all 30k km and one from the 80s with motor oil changes every 5k, gearbox oil every 10k and axles every 10k as well. Not to mention that modern gearboxes and exles tend to be greased for life.

Thanks, I updated the post. I had no idea that oil changes are now once every two years. On the wife's Subaru I still change the oil every six months, and I remember when the standard was actually every three months. She puts about 10 km on the car during those six months, we live in a hilltop village half an hour drive from a city.

Time based oil changes (as a backup to mileage) in gasoline vehicles are mostly to address oil contamination from the engine not getting hot enough to boil off fuel and combustion byproducts in the oil. It's a rough heuristic for drive type - more advanced oil life monitors know the actual drive cycles an engine is seeing and will adjust appropriately, but for a basic time-and/or-mileage schedule, it's more about picking some interval that gets the oil changed before the additive package is destroyed by combustion acids. If the car is driven only short distances and never gets a chance to fully warm up, six months is probably a reasonable interval. If it gets a monthly spin on the highway for an hour, two years is probably fine. Ideally, you'd be measuring total base and total acid levels and calculating change points based on that; this is common practice for large truck engines but for a gasoline car engine, an oil change can be cheaper than the lab tests. (I'm still in favor of having oil testing done on at least some changes, it's basically "routine bloodwork" for your car and can detect many problems early.)

Another upshot of this is that with rarely driven vehicles, you might as well use the cheapest oil which meets appropriate specs, because your oil changes are driven by additive depletion and oil contamination rather than breakdown of the oil itself.

  > Another upshot of this is that with rarely driven vehicles, you might as well use
  > the cheapest oil which meets appropriate specs, because your oil changes are driven
  > by additive depletion and oil contamination rather than breakdown of the oil itself.
The Ferrari gets the cheap stuff, the Kia gets the good stuff. I love how some things are so unintuitive.

I just ordered an oil testing kit from Blackstone. Thank you for the idea.

What? Oil change every three month? WTF is wrong with the US industry?

The very same cars in Europe will have an oil change every 2 years or so. My Volvo S60 Model 2000 has an oil change every 3 years.

There must be something that you get sold on by marketing that is so wrong. BTW. Also a Tesla has oil in their gearbox, even if it is just a single gear integrated into the single unit combined with motor and inverter. For a Model S it is recommend to replace it every 12.5k miles, which is exactly the very same recommendation as with other car model.

Both my cars (late model, US spec, Honda and BMW) have oil change intervals "as indicated" OR every year, whichever is shorter.

The "as indicated" ends up being around 8-10k miles in practice, with start/stop cycles, short trips, and other factors swinging it higher/lower.

These days, we average <4k miles year per car, so use the annual interval.

Without meaning to argue that it is necessary, it persists because it just isn't that big a cost. Gas isn't the largest cost of ownership and 5,000 miles of cheap US gas is still ~10x the cost of an oil change.

> For a Model S it is recommend to replace it every 12.5k miles

There was a recommendation to change the gear oil previously, but newer versions of the S removed those. Even then I seem to recall it was way longer than 12,500 miles.


Your vehicle should generally be serviced on an as-needed basis. However, Tesla recommends the following maintenance items and intervals, as applicable to your vehicle, to ensure continued reliability and efficiency of your Model S.

Brake fluid health check every 2 years (replace if necessary). A/C desiccant bag replacement every 3 years. Cabin air filter replacement every 3 years. Clean and lubricate brake calipers every year or 12,500 miles (20,000 km) if in an area where roads are salted during winter Rotate tires every 6,250 miles (10,000 km) or if tread depth difference is 2/32 in (1.5 mm) or greater, whichever comes first

Seeing as how the recommended cleaning and lubrication of the brakes is 12,500mi, I'm wondering if you heard that and got confused about the lubrication needs. As mentioned in their manual, this is really only recommended for places where they salt the roads in the winter. Since the brakes don't get used as much its even worse than a regular car with the corrosion. If you're not in a high road salt area, its not a problem.

The recommended service interval on other EVs also have extremely extended oil change intervals. The service life of the Mach E's gear oil is 150,000mi and the coolant change is at 200,000mi.

https://www.fordservicecontent.com/Ford_Content/Catalog/owne... (warning: PDF document)

If you're changing your EV's oil every 12,500 miles you're either doing it way too often, you bought a defective EV, or you should repair the leaks.

I'm not in the US, but I have lived there and I did learn that frequency there. Like I mentioned in another thread, I worked as a service technician at Ford and that was the recommendation then (1990s).

As for the Model S fluid change, thank you for mentioning it, I did not know that. I believe that there is no fluid change interval defined on the Model 3, which I just recently bought.

There are many gasoline vehicles that specify no fluid changes for certain parts, infamously, transmissions. Longer lasting synthetic fluids allow them to advertise lower maintenance costs, but they still do wear out. They’d rather the transmission wears out after 150k miles anyway.

Don't get me started on transmissions! A failing transmission the month after a Model 3 test drive / joy ride is what really pushed me into making the jump to electric.

Thank you for the advice, I will research the service intervals on the Tesla.

Volvo recommends an oil change every 16,000 km.

Because everybody drives differently, mileage and time based recommendations aren't the best. Some places will offer to test your used motor oil during a change and will tell you if you waited too long or changed it to early.

Even in Finland it is one oil change a year, and that includes proper winters...

The price difference buys lot of maintenance. And gas...

The i10 is a rather low end car, but the upgrade could be worth it. Finland gas prices are 8.464 USD/gallon right now. That’s unusually high but assuming 200k miles at say 35 mpg that adds up to 48,000 USD in gas over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Not that electricity is free or that we have long term cost data, but I suspect the EV / plug in hybrid premium is a very easy choice in Finland.

I was curious so I did some math about this.

The average car life in Finland seems to be 15.6 years (let's round that to 16, helping the case for EVs).

The average distance traveled by Finnish cars, based on 2018 data, is about 13600km per year (let's make that 14000km per year, also helping the case for EVs).

That works out to 224k km over the lifetime of a car. That's only 140k miles.

Regarding your 35mpg (was 30mpg before the edit), that's 6.7l per 100km (7.8 before edit), let's make that 7l per 100km (and 8 before edit), further helping the case for EVs.

But in reality a small car such as the i10 probably uses more like 5-5.5l per 100km (40-45mpg).

Then the gas price is super high due to the Covid economic bounceback coupled with the supply chain issues plus the latest conflict.

I'd say your numbers are too optimistic plus they're for the entire lifetime of the car. The average owner probably has the car for half that duration, at best. So they don't really care about the entire lifetime.

Still, things seem to be getting closer than 10 years ago, for example.

The really bad thing is the upfront price. There's no comparable EV in the i10 price range, which is a very cheap car (we're talking about a car around €12k).

I actually looked it up. 35 MPG is perhaps generous when their 2021 cars are averaging 30.9MPG, but it’s a low sample size.


Finland imports a lot of used cars but: “An average car in the fleet 12.6 years of age” that suggest the car actually lasts to ~25.2 years. It’s not that simple because again they are importing and exporting used cars.


> There's no comparable EV in the i10 price range

there is now! I'm seeing the Dacia Spring appear everywhere - probably because it starts at only 13k in France including the ecobonus (I think base price is 16-17k). This is an absolute game-changer

I'm curious about it, but let's see how far the uptake goes.

Where are you located?

> Where are you located?

Given the GP's

>> it starts at only 13k in France including the ecobonus (I think base price is 16-17k).

I'd guess France.

My partner leases a petrol car, and except for pumping up the tyres every now and then we've never done anything to it.

Servicing is fully covered and the garage keeps track of when things need changing.

It wasn't so long ago that leasing was actually cheaper option than buying (on credit).

Even if you're not paying for the service, you still need to take the time to do it or get it done for you.

It all catches back up to you when the battery replacement cost nearly totals the car though.

I've got a 10 year warranty on the battery pack. And at the rate that independent battery servicing is expanding, there is a very good chance that independent pack refurbishment or replacement will be affordable by March 2032.

In any case, the wife's 1996 Hyundai was worth more to the breaking yard than it was to the second hand market when it's transmission failed in summer of 1997. So even if the battery pack fails immediately after the warranty period and that totals the car, I've still come out ahead in total cost of ownership.

Semiconductors are not regulated except in terms of large scale externalities - e.g. water quality, air emissions, etc. Otherwise they pretty much use any methods, processes or means that they want. They do have economic incentives based on the constraints of physics - you can't boost defect densities of wafers by screaming at Mother Nature so to assure a market for your products, there are constraints on quality and process that all things equal you'd skip since they are "cost centers".

Considering the regulations aren’t universal, but they seem to work fine everywhere, your hypothesis sounds preposterous.

A) Have you really been everywhere to check?

B) There are regulations almost everywhere (especially, almost everywhere that has a profitable market to sell into), so it's probably easiest to just sell regulation-compliant equipment in the rest of them, too.

So it's not at all "preposterous" that the regulations actually work even in most places where they're not legally in force, and that you've just not noticed the few where they don't.

You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. I live in Alabama where there is virtually NO CODE, and NO ENFORCEMENT, and there definitely aren't any God damned unions, either. My house foundation, light switches, and water delivery are perfectly fine, thanks. Matter of fact, I did the wiring and installed the well pump and a fair bit of plumbing myself. Didn't have to ask anyone's permission to do it, either.

Wow, imagine that radical concept--a society that functions well without government goons breathing down everyone's neck! Maybe we could even come up with a word to describe this amazing new idea. "Freedom" maybe? "Liberty"?

Enjoy your slavery, serf.

How profitable do you think it is to make special non-regulatory-compliant faucets and light switches just for the Alabama market? Probably not very, so manufacturers just sell the same regulations-proof equipment there that they sell to the rest of the US. In effect, you're freeloading on the regulatory work of non-Alabamians.

Enjoy your working non-lethal infrastructure, parasite.

These are all things that most people never notice because they just work.

Taking the example of grocery store logistics, the number of times products are unavailable in my local store makes me thing that's a thing that doesn't "just work". It's something that breaks down regularly, and possibly has lots of people working hard to keep it from breaking even more often.

The same is true for lots of things. Stuff like water delivery and silicon manufacturing doesn't break all the time because lots of people are fighting to make it work, and are actively maintaining it all the time.

I think it's possible that most things don't "just work", and we're just fortunate that there are teams of people out there stopping us seeing the effects of all the failures.

That's no contradiction. Logistics and manufacturing works because people are spending their professional lives maintaining them. It's the outside that doesn't see these efforts, for them it "just works". Like electricity.

As I wrote recently, [1]

> And it also pretty much sums up how most people in Tech have minimal understanding of Supply Chains and logistics works. Even distribution alone, within a single country ( ignoring the cross border logistics ) is complex enough.

Let me tell you supply chain and product availability in store ( especially grocery ) is still an unsolved problem. For a lot of different reasons and market dynamics. But mostly because grocery stores also have their own brand which compete with other products, and sharing sales data for better forecast is still a big no no. Compare to let say Smartphone, your average retail store will have zero chance completing with Apple or Samsung. So every time an iPhone is sold Apple knew instantly and can better manage their supply chain. Both domestic and international.

If we didn't had COVID and Chip Shortage, most of the world still doesn't give any credit or importance to Supply Chain management. Even though it is the basic fabric of our society. And that is speaking with experience working with Fortune Global 500.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30662680

Are those people optimizing for having every product available at every time? They have to balance against the very real cost of spoilage, so I don’t think they consider the occasional out–of–stock as the system breaking

Yes they are. Product availability is the most important factor in choosing a grocery store, as unavailability makes people need to visit additional stores or change recipes/plans on the fly. Some spoilage is factored in and is just a minor bit of negative PR. However, the supply chain disruptions since 2020 are too big for any grocery chain to "solve".


The answer is actually "It depends"

For some products like pasta and canned tomatoes, you can hold enough stock to deal with a 99th-percentile day without any wastage at all; if it doesn't sell today, it'll sell tomorrow.

But for those little packaged sushi snacks with a one-day shelf life? Any overstock is going in the trash at the end of the day.

And sushi snacks mostly sell to workers on their lunch breaks. You'll see big fluctuations in demand if a nearby office changes their work-from-home policy, or has a big all-hands meeting that gets everyone in. Even the greatest demand modelling can't predict such things, as nearby office meetings aren't available as a model input.

Some products are also easily more easily substitutable than others: If the 1kg pack of mid-priced spaghetti is out of stock, maybe I buy the low-priced brand, the premium brand, the 500g packet, the wholewheat version and so on.

>Product availability is the most important factor in choosing a grocery store

For many people, price is almost certainly at least as big a factor. Many, perhaps even most, people are willing to accept things being out of stock now and then for 10% lower prices.

Spoilage is more an issue of waste than accidentally selling a spoiled product.

Look up "Things seen this week during structural inspections!" on imgur. Some truly horrifying stuff from that person.

For some of these foundations to still be standing and building occupants not to notice anything's wrong ... I can't even imagine how much safety factor is built-in. If we built software with those margins, nothing would ever ship.

Here's a few: https://imgur.com/gallery/Ko2jo4j



Sometimes they share pictures of foundations completely detached from anything. And it keeps working!

I'm planning to buy a house in the next year or two. I would 100% hire this guy as the inspector if I knew who he was. Those photos are more effective than any marketing.

The imgur account name is the business name, Alpha Structural: https://www.yelp.com/biz/alpha-structural-los-angeles-8

For some reason I thought it was a throwaway account name. Thanks for pointing out the obvious!

You’ll love https://structuretech.com/category/newconstruction/ them where issues are found at new construction.

As usual its just how much money you put in to it. We spend a lot of money making sure building foundations and silicon manufacturing works because failing is expensive and dangerous. I don't want to pay double/triple price for a toaster to slightly reduce its risk of failing because I'm happy to accept that on average it lasts a long time but there is some chance it fails sooner. If I'm in charge of buying a $100M building, you bet I want to pay extra to assure it will not fall over.

There’s a lot of stuff that works remarkably well even though it’s cheap. I just came from a supermarket. It’s filled with items from around the world, of which most are very inexpensive. The consistent quality of these products is astounding—a bag of potato chips or a box of crackers tastes exactly the same, anywhere in the country where I buy it, year-round. A can of Coca-Cola tastes exactly the same even though they’re bottled in different facilities with different owners.

These things did cost a lot to develop, but for the consumer it’s quite inexpensive. As GP said, we just take these things for granted and don’t notice them.

The coke bottles themselves are amazing too. I used to go to school with a reusable bottle filled with milk. Those cylindrical lunch bottles for kids were absolutely horrible. They leaked half the time, spoiling my bag and notebook. If you dropped them they would break because they were hard plastic. The rubber ring that was supposed to stop it from leaking would degrade quickly and start to smell funny. Those things cost as much as 20 bottles of coke, and an empty coke bottle is a vastly superior product in almost every way!

A bit of a woo-woo aside but I've been trying to practice more gratitude thinking in my daily life and the grocery store is an easy place to be reminded of how good we have it.

> A bit of woo woo aside but I’ve been trying to practice more gratitude…

No woo woo necessary. You may be interested in checking this (and related citations) about research on gratitude and psychological well being:


Practicing gratitude is probably the single easiest way to increase one's happiness, and yet it's so easy to forget to do it even if you know that. At least for me.

One thing we can do is keep a gratitude journal where we write down things we're grateful for. Can literally be grateful for the sun shining, or not experiencing an earthquake, for having the ability to write in a journal in the first place, etc.

It's so, so powerful.

Relevant video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BNpk_OGEGlA

Grocery stores are a marvel for sure. It's a miracle that we can get a season fruit like grapes 365 days a year.

It may be a miracle of logistics when ignoring negative externalities like carbon cost vs not shipping it halfway across the globe. Why can’t we eat seasonally? It usually tastes better and makes things less monotonous

I'm a believer that the largest part of what led Yeltsin to fundamentally change what it was, and thus cause the dissolution of the USSR, was his impromptu grocery store visit in the US.

Conversely there are lot of things that are expensive and work very badly. "Designer anything" as for example, designer light fixtures. I've had terrible experiences with these.

It happens to almost anything creative products, stylish, custom made, and services.

I guess because there isn't enough time and money to assess the quality and optimize them.

I think it's more that you just simply can get away with it: Artsy-fartsy types that care more about design care less about function and quality, so don't question and check them enough for manufacturers to have to keep high standards in those areas.

> There’s a lot of stuff that works remarkably well even though it’s cheap.

Even light switches are pretty cheap. You can get a basic single light switch for around $2. Sure there's decora switches, dimmer switches, and all kinds of other great things for $50+ but the basic $2 ones will still last decades.

If you replaced the contacts with a triac and replaced the switch mechanism with a thick bistable flexure, it would likely last centuries and have a BoM cost around $2.

I’ve had 2 switches fail over the last 2 years out of the ~40 switches installed in the house. One failed by welding itself closed and another failed by caving into the electrical box when I hit it too hard. Even though the 40 year life expectancy of a single switch sounds good, the reality is that one fails catastrophically every year. I’d love to get more reliable switches that last well over a century, but I’m not aware of anyone that measures this sort of thing.

Exactly. I can't imagine how expensive a computer chip should be if the process isn't optimized / streamlined.

And for kitchenware and dinningware, we still get decent quality for a still rather cheap price. Of course as the article stated it's not easy to determine which one with decent quality, however if customers only aim for the cheapest one of course it won't be good.

Coke and potato chips are not at all inexpensive if you include the health costs.

They're pretty good examples of things that are cheap and don't work very well, if your goal is health and not distraction/entertainment.

But health isn't the goal when people consume Coke and potato chips, and conversely if health is your goal you don't consume Coke and potato chips.

I beg to differ, many of these large household companies are shells of their former selves as they've been bought, bankrupted, and traded around. What's left is just a name with no solid product line backing it anymore. E.g. Sunbeam was a solid household appliance name, and now it's a crap. Same with Braun.

The easy industrial design exercise seems to be luxurious looking materials paired with cheap electronics. Amazon is full of this. Oddly, the thing I end up trusting these days are in-house brands because the store has some responsibility to make sure their own brand's reputation doesn't get too tarnished.

I don't even know how I would identify a good toaster to buy, nowadays. Electric kettles are a problem, too.

After purchasing the top two Wirecutter picks for electric kettles (Cuisinart and some gooseneck kettle) both died within a year. The gooseneck one was rusted on arrival, clearly awful build quality.

I decided to try paying much more for a Fellow Stagg EKG, and it was a great decision. It’s lasted over 3 years and has been an absolute joy to use compared to the prior mass market garbage.

I often wish for a Wirecutter-like site that prioritizes quality and especially longevity above all else. Wirecutter always focused too much on cost, and even their “upgrade picks” tend to suffer awful quality issues. For years their top blender pick was an Oster that had hundreds of angry reviews about dying within months. Wirecutter ignored the feedback for years despite so many people streaming into their own comments section to vent about it.

Honestly, I had spent 20 years in the US and we consistently bought the cheapest appliances ever.

When I bought my house I finally said "screw it, let's see what decent appliances look like".

Japanese rice cooker set me back $95 and I thought I would never hear the end of it, and after 4 years, it had already paid itself off (we were doing $14 rice cookers every 6 months). Air fryer was $70 but the previous $40 only lasted 13 months. Basic coffee maker was like $60 but made non-burnt coffee. A little combo oven/toaster is what I ended up on since we had one in the last apartment since we never used a full oven.

The ones that are honestly pretty difficult to find were dishwasher but one of our friends suggested bosch because we wanted a quiet appliance.

There's also just a... man, I don't know how to describe it. Kind of a mental benefit to using slightly nicer things.

When I was young, almost everything I owned was the cheapest possible version of that thing. Everything just kind of sucked, brutally cost-optimized to the point of being somewhat nasty to use and barely functional.

I was still very fortunate: I had food to eat, clothes, etc. A lot of kids in the world would have traded places with me.

Now that I'm older, I have no interest in "luxury" goods, but there's that subtle intangible benefit to using e.g. the $95 rice cooker vs. the $14 rice cooker. You feel like somebody who's worth more than the cheapest possible piece of disposable shit, I guess. Or at least I do.

It makes better rice, too, of course. And there's the ecological benefit of not tossing a $14 rice cooker into the landfill every couple of months. But there's also a bit of self worth involved, or something.

I'm not a super stingy guy and we're a Cuban family so rice is an every day dish.

It's not super fancy or anything but it fills that rice craving and is a multi-use device.

In the US, the $95 cooker lasts no longer, and works no better, than the $25 unit. (There is no $14 one.) You might be able to do better with a Japanese brand, but it is vanishingly unlikely you will get the same one as they would have sold in Japan, unless you actually get it shipped from there.

I make rice in a saucepan on the range top. I have to come back and turn it off when it's done. Otherwise, it is the same. If you care about how good your rice is, you are starting with short-grain rice. Or red, or black, or arborio for risotto.

I've had a Zojirushi for 20 years, and my mom has had hers for 30. Probably paid $250 when new. We use it nearly every day. My kids know how to make rice with it, and it comes out perfect every time. I wouldn't trust a ten year old to make rice on the stove, but they can do it with a rice cooker no problem.

They can do it with your exact rice cooker, no problem.

I grew up with Zojirushi rice cookers. They always worked. The last one I bought sputtered starch water all over the counter. Stuff you can buy in the US today is not the same as what we could buy even 20 years ago.

The one I bought from them 4 or 5 years ago is great. Same with the water boiler. But I made sure to purchase models that are still made in Japan —- not all of their models are.

I bought them off Amazon, do sourcing isn’t difficult, but some research might be in order if you want Japanese manufacturing. You’ll pay more for these models as well — they aren’t the cheap or maybe even middle-priced options... (I believe my rice cooker was nearly $300, 5 or so years ago...)

> one of our friends suggested bosch because we wanted a quiet appliance

We've been very happy with our Bosch. Don't ever buy a cheap dishwasher.

You can spend as much as you like on a dishwasher. $200, $300, $400, $500, $700, $900, $1200.

The only real difference above $400 is how loud it is. In a silent room you can't tell whether the $1200 dishwasher is running at all.

That does not matter to everybody.

For kitchen stuff, America's Test Kitchen has amazing equipment reviews.

In addition to their testing process itself, they actually dogfood their advice by using their own picks in their test kitchen so they get used by tons of people way more often than any testing process could accomplish so they can get a real sense of how good a recommendation holds up over time.

Last Yule I bought a toaster for my brother. All of them felt kinda like crap, flimsy cheap, scratchy action... I was not even looking at cheapest but something I imagine to be reasonably mid-range that is around 50€ mark. After all it is a moving platform, some heating elements and case. Not at all complicated.

It's been mentioned on HN before, but in case you haven't seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OfxlSG6q5Y.

At issue is whether spending more gets you a better toaster, or just the same toaster but for more money. It is hard to find out.

Commercial toasters (and, I imagine, commercial electric kettles) are 'good' in the sense of being well-built and long-lasting. I've got a 1980s Dualit toaster which is essentially bomb-proof (the clockwork timer will eventually stop working but is easily replaced; even the elements can be readily changed out if they get damaged).

Of course, the downside is that new ones start at £150 or so. So it's difficult to make a financial case (as opposed to an aesthetic, or a principled one) over a £10 special from Tesco.

The problem with ‘commercial’ kitchen equipment is that most of it is just up branded domestic equipment.

When you do buy ‘commercial’ kitchen equipment you’ll notice lots of things that are just downright worse. Energy efficiency, safety features, and noise reduction are all things that are _way_ worse than with their domestic counterparts.

"Real" commercial kitchen equipment is often totally different.

Commercial fridges will stay cool even if their door is opened 20 times an hour. Commercial glass washers take a tenth of the time a home dishwasher takes. And if they're noisy, ugly and they need to be cleaned every day without fail, that's just normal commercial equipment.

I bought a store brand 9A kettle and it's fine [1]. They're simple products and shouldn't break unless you have very hard water, in which case a round of vinegar should clean that. What are you running into?

1: https://www.blokker.nl/blokker-waterkoker-bl-10202---rvs---1...

In the US, kettles are carefully designed to last one year and no more. Same for a $20 or $100 unit.

I have not discovered a way to find one that is not so designed. Regular reviews are useless.

I imagine that makes the slow Denise of Sears/Craftsman particularly unfortunate then.


Your parent comment has an autocorrect error, and meant to write demise (death).

I read somewhere, and this guy was talking about how if you want your house to sell for more, invest in everything you physically touch. High quality doorknobs, faucets, and light switches have a marked impact on our unconscious valuation of a house.

Check the deltas, the derivative. There exist long lists from personal experiences of things that worked very well and now are of comparatively terrible quality.

The issue is then not just with the item, but with societies that are increasingly accepting low quality: this is a horrible trend, and one side of decadence. You get both, flanked: low quality here for the occasion and decadence around for the trend.

The idea you say of some "distracted" ones "not realizing the failure potential" has a legitimate justification, beyond the simple inattentive, in those (inexperienced) that assume, for a number of reasons (especially including an internal healthy "mindset" of good standards), things are done properly. There is a line in a script for Scorsese that goes like: «I'm the guy doing my job, you must be the other one».

Society has always been accepting of low quality cheap stuff. It's just that there's a ton more of it available now.

No, it's not a matter of «low-quality cheap»:

things that twenty, ten, five years ago were of high quality - same brand, update of same model - now you buy at a comparatively abysmal quality for a very similar price. It is today easy to find products which are cheap in manufacturing and expensive as a price tag.

This means that, in some way, people in some/many societies are tolerating quality degradation. And a decrease of alternatives is contributing. That, in some areas, it was once not necessary to spend time investigating which product was high or just decent quality (already the price could have been a good indicator), while now it is part of your task, shows that tolerance for low quality has increased. That is not for the 1 dollar item, but for whole range up to many figures.

And, a staggeringly increased inability to perceive degradation in general is evident today visiting some territories (and see what is tolerated now and was not before).

Just to give one example, CI pipelines seem to fail all the time. For closed source and open source project. Just like this, it worked in the last commit and in the new commit it fails despite the test suite passing. The ultimate reason is routine tasks pulling in a ton of complexity of which only a tiny fraction is being used.

At workplaces this creates a lot of absurd situations that eat up insane amounts of productivity.

Or another example, it's pretty common that water pipes don't work as expected. (Congestion, low pressure, undesired backflow, tricky to get water at body temperature...) Nobody really complains, everybody lives with it and learns to completely ignore it. I'm not saying these problems occur everywhere 100% of the time but often enough to show there's something structurally not working

> just to give one example, CI pipelines seem to fail all the time.

Really? I've not seen this to be the case unless they are never maintained (ie: a year goes by and ignored dependencies change)

There's counterexamples for each of those though; just thinking of Flint, Michigan, or the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020. Also I had to replace a light switch in my shed the other day.

Many of those things mentioned have changed very little in decades. Some have also been under continuous improvement for hundreds or thousands of years.

I think that just shows that these things take time but the process does work.


house foundations, water delivery off the top of my head, logistics in general possibly if I'm wanting to stretch the term.

Foundations change (tensioned slab, etc) and water inside of houses (copper vs pvc vs PEX vs lead). Electrical is even in frequent flux under those timescales. Insulation as well.

Very little stays consistent…

But the concept of water being fed through pipe, from a reservoir, chlorination, etc have been around a long time. Sure implementation details change, but they and the concepts they build off of have been around. You mention pvc, copper, and pex (lead is over 50 years old and many have been replaced). Those are just materials. How do they affect end user on a daily basis?

How long has electrical be 120v AC? How long has auto voltage been 12v vs 5v?

Details, materials, and implementation change (building off of prior versions), concepts and overarching system designs are slow to change.

That feels like we're stretching the claim a whole lot. The "basic concept" of a Tesla isn't that different than a Model T but I think most people would reject the claim that cars haven't really changed much.

Road design and laws have mostly stayed the same in the past 50 years. How about controls (pedals, wheel, etc) - more or less the same as well (subject to regulations).

There are similarities in your example. The fact that Tesla has autopilot and is an EV represent two of the biggest moves away from traditional car concepts. If you used an ICE car I would say the concepts haven't changed much.

Sorry, I was answering the second part 'Some have also been under continuous improvement for hundreds or thousands of years.' :)

As someone who writes software for a big grocery store chain in Germany I'm surprised the logistics work at all. It's a s*show inside once you know the details, but somehow, yes it kind of works well enough as for the customers to not even realize is there.

I think you put too much confidence in other engineering fields. They go wrong all the time (you might notice some when purchasing a house) and changes are extremely slow and expensive.

Or they just take longish time to fail and then cause lot of issues.

Foundations are such, 70s-80s had certain style which now has been found to lead to issues like mold if done even slightly imperfectly.

Or water pipes from certain age that have already in 20-30s have started to leak, these being copper pipes...

To be precise, that depends on the actual filesystem. But ext4 works really well.

It reminds me of this anecdote (probably a joke):

After the fall of the Soviet Union, UK experts flew in to help with the transition, and one of the apparatchiks asked: "We are eager to try this capitalism thing; now tell us: who is in charge of the daily delivery of bread to London?"

Cue the ZFS people, homeowners with cracked concrete, and flickery electricity .

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