Bombproof gadgets: Our most trusty technology
Is there a piece of technology in your life that just won't die? Despite dropping it down stairs, in the sea or on to a treadmill? Here are our favourite lumps of near-indestructible technology
Crave has often mused on the pathetic, inexcusable. But in a world where waterproof means splashproof and ruggedised means you'd better not drop it, there's all the more reason to celebrate tech that just won't die.
Whatever the reason for its survival, the technology we've collected here deserves enormous credit.
It's coped with years of abuse and thousands of metres of cumulative drops, but it continues to operate as well as it did on the day it emerged from the factory.
There must be plenty more where this came from -- surely not all tech is as fragile as baby bats? We'd like you to get involved too. If you have something that's been with you through thick and thin, take a photo of it, and bung a link in our forums. You never know, perhaps we'll add the one we like best to this collection.
Sony Digicube alarm clock
This is the lump of tech that inspired this article. I woke up one morning, looked at it and thought, "I've had that thing for bloody years and it's never let me down," and I decided it deserved some credit.
The most remarkable thing about this alarm clock is that it wasn't even new when I bought it -- I got it ages ago at a jumble sale. It cost me 50p and it has woken me up every day without fail for at least the last 15 years. I even took it to university, although I never used it there because students only ever wake up naturally, and generally not before noon.
Over the years it's had a few additions -- the Intel Pentium II sticker is a reminder of the time I spent building computers. And there's even a little area that has been melted by something. I have no memory of what, but it hasn't affected the clock's performance. Indeed, the only times this alarm clock hasn't woken me are when I'm a) not sleeping next to it, or b) so hung-over a hurricane wouldn't disturb me.
I've considered replacing the clock from time to time, but I've always come to the same conclusion: why bother? The Digicube is perfect. -Ian Morris
I've dropped it on the floor. I've dangled it over the edges of tall buildings and knocked it into walls. I'm pretty sure I've even dropped it down some stairs, but my Lomo LC-A keeps snapping away.
I bought one of the older Lomo Kompakt Automats -- the Russian cameras invented in the 1980s by the exuberantly monikered General Igor Petrowitsch Kornitzky and Michail Panfilowitsch Panfiloff -- from eBay about eight years ago. Being clumsy, I was regularly banging up my Nikon SLR and wanted something I could afford to hurt. What I got in the Lomo was a relatively simple point-and-shoot system in a hefty, sturdy black casing. All I had to do to get a great shot was leave the aperture settings on automatic, change the focus settings and hope that I'd converted the Russian ISOs correctly. Walls be damned.
Lomos -- turned Lomo LC-As -- were popularised by the Lomography Society in the early 1990s, encouraging you to 'shoot from the hip' -- and from the wallet, with a standard package now costing around £175. Still, no new Lomo make I've owned has ever been as sturdy as the older one. The newer front focusing plates have fallen off, the screws have come loose around the back and sides and the shutters have become unreliable. All I've needed on this old timer has been some gaffer tape around the sides. Not a bad result for a tumble down the stairs. -Shannon Doubleday
Sony MiniDisc player
This was my first player. I don't remember much about it, though I do remember future models didn't come with such a cool in-line remote.
This attractive player survived a drop down the side of a cliff face in Wales. What's more, it only had one small dent as a result. The player was the only thing inside a small rucksack I was carrying at the time, apart from a box of MiniDiscs that sadly didn't survive the fall.
It took the best part of 2 hours to wind our way down the mountain and locate the bag. It had come to a halt about 20m from the edge of a small lake. I was fully prepared to find the battered remains of my precious player. But no, it was almost completely unscathed and was fully functional for the two years that followed.
I don't know what came of it once it was replaced. It was long before I was selling stuff on eBay, so it must be around somewhere. Safe to say, I don't expect myto survive any plummets down the sides of mountains. -Nate Lanxon
If it's hard enough for Jack, it's hard enough for me. Wrinkly old shouter Jack Nicholson uses the tough little Motorola V220 in The Departed, making extensive use of its advanced, er, texting. The V220 survives raucous gunfights and Jack's toxic spittle to play a key role in the dramatic finale.
Okay, it's so basic it has a protruding antenna. And the VGA camera is hilariously useless. But dammit, I've had it for over three years and the battery still lasts a week on standby. The predictive text works pretty well (although it still hasn't learned that my friend is called Alice, not Algae) and the buttons are nicely spaced. Plus it's tiny -- apart from its considerable girth, I've never seen a phone smaller than this. -Nick Hide
Sony HD5 Walkman
Another Sony win from me -- my NW-HD5 MP3 player has been with me now for a few years. There have been very few days when I haven't had it on me. And it does look like it's been through the wars. Due to a manufacturing defect, the plastic keys have cracks in them, but that doesn't affect the functionality at all.
The player is riddled with scratches and dents. There's dust under the screen and the silver paint is wearing off the plastic in places, but I'm still using it every day. Since I bought a replacement battery from someone on eBay, it's also still giving me fantastic playback time on a single charge.
Why do I love it so? Well, for one, it's not an iPod. Of course, it has its own unique set of problems, but it doesn't require that hideous bloatware iTunes -- SonicStage is awful of course, but I just use it to dump files and playlists on the HD5, rather than manage my library, so it gives minimal trouble. The HD5 is awesome because it's tiny, holds 20GB of music and can still play for a respectable 24 hours on a single charge. -Ian Morris
Look at it. Just look at it. You can keep your Click Wheel iPods and your gesture-based iPhones. Apple's greatest styling moment came in 2002 with the launch of the G4 iMac. The 15-inch LCD screen is attached to the domed white base by a graceful, flexible neck that still holds its head up high with justified pride.
Mine's still going strong five years later, having survived three moves, one accidental wiping of the hard drive, some ill-advised internal tinkering and at least one grip malfunction -- that is, I dropped it. By contrast, my HP PC at work struggles to survive past lunchtime. And my Dad's PC, of comparable age, doesn't even work as a doorstop. If I'm an Apple fanboy, this baby is why. -Rich Trenholm
The Nokia 5210 wasn't a smart phone, it didn't have a camera, it didn't even have a colour screen -- but this was one tough mother of a mobile. With a rubberised case, this drop-proof phone could take a real beating.
Many people wrongly assumed the 5210 was waterproof and subsequently dropped it into pints of beer to show it off to their friends, only to pull it back out and the screen didn't turn on. Bombproof, sure, but not beerproof. -Andrew Lim
Nintendo Game Boy
There's no two ways about it: the original Game Boy is one of the hardest gadgets ever conceived. Rumour has it this beige behemoth isn't made of plastic, but from the skulls of fallen Gurkhas. If you ever saw one that was broken, it's because it lost a boxing match with a nuclear bomb -- on points.
It was big, heavy, and the only colours it could show were black, green, and the blood of its victims. But it remains the only thing I've never cackhandedly broken. We were going to do a gag at the end of this feature where I endorse a massive pile of broken tech, but Game Boy has defeated me. Damn him. -Rory Reid