Peter Hitchens, brother of Christopher, has an interesting post on his blog about how modern Western technology only functions in optimal conditions, whereas older, less sophisticated stuff–as made in Eastern Europe–works in all sorts of conditions:
“That’s why, if a conventional Third World War had ever been held, the USSR would probably have won. NATO planes would have been grounded by drizzle. Soviet MiGs would have flown in all weathers in huge numbers. NATO tanks, with their superb fire control, would have suffered ceaseless computer glitches. Soviet tanks, crude and simple, would have lumbered on regardless and kept shooting.”
Weaponry aside, it is an interesting issue that I suspect comes up in the design philosophy of all sorts of things.