Making old tolerable


While we are all getting older with every tick of the clock, the things that we expect from the tools that we use keeps evolving to include much younger technology. No one would accept a black and white television with a rotary channel selector mounted on the side of the set today. Just like you’d probably reject a telephone that had a rotary dial or even a crank, or a phone that required the assistance of an operator just to make a call to the next town.

Those of us who have been around for over a half century look back fondly on some of the old tech, like the nearly indestructible bakelite telephones of the 1950’s and 60’s. Again, the rotary dial would be too clunky for today. This is especially true for us aging boomers who like the looks of the industrial designs of our youth, especially cars. Then you go out and drive one of the old ones and can’t believe how poorly they handle, how long it takes them to stop, and how unsafe the things feel sans a three-point restraint system. There are small conveniences that you’ll really miss when you attempt to make an older car your daily driver, as well. Let’s start with the lack of today’s options.

Once you’ve enjoyed such options as a digital compass and a digital outside temperature readout, heated seats, mirrors and a remote start, you’re completely spoiled. I don’t think I have yet owned a vehicle that was fully optioned with every conceivable convenience; they’ve always been missing at least one item. Right now I have two older vehicles that I drive at various times of the year, and another that should be back on the road this coming summer. Of these three, only one has the option that I find myself missing the most, and that’s the digital temperature read-out. The 1988 Corvette had a number of options that weren’t all that common in the 1980’s, like ABS and heated mirrors. It also has the digital external temperature read-out. My 1982 Ford F-100 pickup and the 1993 Volvo 240 do not have the external temperature read-out. Have you ever tried to get an aftermarket thermometer for your car? The vast majority are poorly functioning junk, usually battery powered, with unreliable attachment options.

I tried a $19 option that was battery powered and could be affixed to your dash with hook and loop double sided tape. After six months of living with this hard to read, inaccurate device, the last time it fell off the dash and onto the floor I left it there until it was nearly ground up by the abrasive dirt and crud on the floor mat. It was no loss. It’s as if no one seems to care enough to build a reliable, easy to read, good as factory digital thermometer for your car. Part of the problem is the fact that an easy to read unit needs to be hooked into your car’s wiring so that the LED indicators are bright enough to see. So I’m trying to do something about it on my own to use in my vehicles that are not so equipped.

I bought a hard wired digital external temperature gauge from an electronics supply house with blue LED’s. I also ordered some special modeling plastic designed for prototyping. I’ll use that to make a custom housing for the LED display. I’ve got a new, super easy way of getting power to the unit as well, but I’ve got to try it all out first. If all goes the way it should, I’ll most likely have one in every one of the older vehicles that I own ... and right now that’s about five vehicles. The next frontier? Aftermarket seat heating units. If you like the older stuff but you want the best comforts available today, you have to research, test, and often come up with your own solution to make it work the way it ought to.

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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