Most cultures have this feeling- particularly among the elderly. If anything, Americans tend to reject it more than most cultures.
Often older things are over-engineered, which causes them to last longer and endure hard usage. A business that has been producing an item for awhile starts to find ways to either reduce cost, or improve some other important attribute (such as reducing weight), often at the cost of reducing durability for the end user. Once a product has been around long enough multiple businesses compete in a race to the bottom to produce the cheapest product that will hold together until it leaves the shop. This applies to everything from microwaves to things as mundane as shoes. (Shoes made with older technology cost more, but they also tend to last longer).
Older cars were made under the theory that, in a crash, the car should show as little damage as possible, and hence were made of thick steel; the body panels were often not load-bearing and could be easily removed. Newer cars (i.e. engineered in the last 30 years) are designed to simply fall apart in a crash, keeping the occupants safe by allowing the car's frame to absorb the energy involved in a crash by crumpling and going to pieces instead of transmitting the energy to the occupants. Of course, this does destroy the car. There are also maintenance issues. It used to be the "tree-shade mechanic" could fix an engine with basic tools, but newer cars require complicated and expensive tools. On the other hand, these efficiencies and cost reductions have allowed more people to afford a car; the U.S. population increased by 55% from 1960 to 2000, but the number of licensed drivers more than doubled over the same period.
This also highlights the selective enforcement of this and other Nostalgia Filter-related tropes. Though there are far more cars on the road, and far more miles driven, fatalities have remained level (fatalities-per-mile in the U.S. have decreased by 75% over the last 50 years), although mostly due to legal enforcement of safety measures.
Houses are another good example. Sometimes after a major disaster- like a hurricane- all the houses built before a certain date will have survived with minor damage, while newer houses are destroyed. This shows something of a selection bias; the older houses had to survive the previous hurricane, leaving only the most durable to face this one. Due to the evolution of building codes, sometimes the newest houses also survive. In flooding situations, barring really record-breaking floods a rather similar selection process will take place, though in this case it's more a case of where the houses are built; the locations least at risk from flooding will be built upon first, with development spreading into more vulnerable areas as the town grows, or, again, the old houses on the floodplain were destroyed in the previous flood.
Another housing example is the old breezeway. Older houses were built with a breezeway to take advantage of prevailing winds to cool the house in the summer. Newer houses have air conditioning and so the builders don't bother with the breezeway. Guess which is cooler if the power goes out in the summer?
For large structures like bridges, this is caused by a combination of factors. Good engineers realized their knowledge of materials and engineering techniques was incomplete, and tended to make things much stronger than calculations called for (the Brooklyn Bridge is over-engineered by almost an order of magnitude). At the same time, less well-designed structures have collapsed or been replaced.
Compare Older Is Better and Invincible Classic Car
Billie Jo Spears country song '57 Chevrolet is a tribute song for that model. They are today considered highly classic and collectable amongst the automobile enthusiasts.
Glassfibre yachts. In the 1960s and 1970s laminated glassfiber was a new material, its properties were unknown, the naval architects over-engineered their designs taking no risks, and the yachts produced then were thoroughly laminated. The result is that they are built like tanks. They retained excellent hydrodynamics, since they were often copies of racing hulls. Modern yachts tend to be sandwich structure, which is lighter but gets damaged more easily and is prone to rot, and usually are have better comfort than seafaring properties.
On Rocky and Bullwinkle's "Fractured Fairy Tales" the Prince attempts to enter the castle of Sleeping Beauty, breaking his sword on the overgrowth surrounding it and lamenting "They don't make them like they used to." After easily getting through with the help of a lawn-mowner, he adds triumphantly, "They make these like they used to."
Interestingly used in the current home console generation. They actually don't make PS3s like they used to - the older models with the Emotion Engine reverse-compatability went out of production in favor of newer and cheaper models, in order for Sony to close the price-gap with Microsoft. Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 reverses this - due to a number of very loud issues with the early batches of X360's, Microsoft has been forced to shape up and improve the quality, making the newest versions much less likely to burn out than the old ones.
This particular brand of nostalgia is mostly subverted in regards to computers, since the first ones were things that could take up entire rooms, had a fraction of the memory current computers have, and were extremely slow.
Notwithstanding the above, there is definite affection for keyboards of yore. Some 30 years old (built in 1982) are still in use and look exactly like they did fresh out of the box.
Note that it is thoroughly justified in the case of Keyboard, the old popular keyboard were made with spring and individual switch for each key, they were heavy, durable as hell and literally are solid enough to bash someone's head over while remaining functional afterwards, not surprisingly these keyboards can survive IMMENSE amount of abuse and can last decades of typing by the most prolific typist without losing effectiveness. Fast forward to modern day however where keyboards are made of the much cheaper but unfortunately much more fragile membrane, where keyboards can fall apart or loses tactile feedback in less than a year of heavy use. Ironically today, there's a very strong trend to return to these old type mechanical keyboards (though not the spring types) in the gaming community, taking advantage of their inherent durability to endure the massive abuse.
Have fun with that. Click style keyboards were shown to cause repetitive stress injury at far higher rates than keyboards with less force feedback.
Stephen: They make 'em like that any more, Jon - they just do.
Ford's Panther Platform (Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town Car) was a major beneficiary of this sort of thinking, to the point that some police departments stocked up on Crown Vics when it was finally discontinued at the end of 2011. The basic design dates back to 1979, and the perimeter-frame, RWD V8 design wasn't much beyond the state of the art of the 1950s. They are, indeed, extremely durable cars, but also handle poorly and are rather cramped for something the size of a limo. Interestingly, the similarly-antiquated GM competitor, the Chevrolet Caprice, was discontinued in 1996 but is widely considered by police and taxi drivers to be the superior car. Indeed, they don't make them like they used to.
Watchmen features Nite Owl I a.k.a. Hollis Mason, who has a great love of old, petrol-powered cars (with the advent of Dr. Manhattan, new models become powered by lithium batteries). The sign for his repair shop even features the line: "Obsolete Models a Specialty." Appropriate for the residence of a retired masked hero.
In Seth's It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken our main character has this feeling about old buildings, museum exhibits, and well...ok, everything.
In the episode "Be A Clown" of Batman: The Animated Series, Batman escapes from the Joker's complicated deathtrap, prompting this comment from the Joker: "They don't make straitjackets like they used to. I should know!"
Expressed in a fairly verbose fashion in the Assessors' report into the sinking of MV Derbyshire "The use of direct methods of design, utilising in particular finite element analysis, is radically reducing the redundancies which naturally occurred in the prescriptive methods of the past"
Played with in Soul Music, when the protagonists visit a mysterious antique shop.
Proprietor: They don't build them like that any more.
Imp y Celyn: That's because we've learned from experience!
They don't make 'em like this anymore. Sturdy, heavy, dull.
Also played with in Ghostbusters when Peter and Ray are discussing the unusual architecture of Dana's building:
Peter: So what? I guess they just don't make them like they used to.
Ray: (Dope Slap) No! Nobody ever made them like this! I mean, the architect had to be a certified genius, or an authentic wacko.
In The Simpsons episode "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy", Abe complains that toys in the store are junk and were built to last when he was young. He starts breaking some toys until security guards grab him.
This pretty well sums up the Imperium's entire philosophy regarding technology in Warhammer 40,000. They know that a radical new invention could have been inspired by a Chaos God, and tech based on it could carry some of the extremely unpleasant taint.
Older music and films in general. On YouTube, most of the comments on videos of these will be of people complaining about how bad today's entertainment is.
High Fructose Corn Syrup replacing cane sugar in soft drinks and many other sweetened products, such as fruit juices and candies. Since this is exclusive to the United States it has also become a common source of Cultural Cringe.
Defenders of the Earth: Ming the Merciless once created robot duplicates of the heroes to frame them. When one of the heroes noticed an arm falling off his robot double, he commented they don't make him like they used to.
One death scene of Space Ace is during the part where Dexter turns into Ace; pressing the fire button at some parts of the Trash Robots scene will cause Ace to try to shoot his target, only to cause half of the space station to blow up.
Synthesizers, out of all things. In the early to mid-90s, while the leading Japanese manufacturers in particular tried all they could to snag market shares from each other with more and more advanced romplers, the synth nerds lusted for the classic analog machines, the last ones of which had just been discontinued a couple of years ago. They didn't care how much more faithfully modern romplers could reproduce acoustic sounds, or how big the patch memory was. In fact, they could go with no patch memory at all as long as they could get the warm and fat sound, the flexibility in sound design and Billions of Knobs for tweaking the sound in real time—instead walking through menus and programming, say, the filter cutoff frequency, they wanted a dedicated cutoff knob. The small Swedish company Clavia was the first to react: The Nord Lead combined the sound and the tweakability of an analog synth with the stability of a digital synth and the reliability of a new synth (as opposed to a used second-hand machine in need of spare parts that aren't even made anymore).
The first subtractive synthesizers from The Sixties were modular, i.e. you had several modules in a frame which had to be connected with patchcords. They were used in laboratories more often than by musicians. Pre-patched, compact, ready-to-play synths rendered them mostly obsolete in The Seventies. Fast forward to 1995 when Dieter Doepfer introduced a new modular system much like the old ones: bulky (although some 40% smaller than a Moog), purely analog, nothing pre-wired except power so you have to plug everything together, one voice (unless patched otherwise), no patch memory at all (unless you use a camera). Today there is a large market revolving around this now standardized system (Eurorack) with many modules from many different manufacturers.
Cassettes, both audio and video, went through this over time. Those made in the 1980's were heavier, more durable, and had clearer picture/sound than the ones coming out in the late 90's and early 2000's, around the time DVD began to take over (whose advertising made it seem like VHS tapes were always cheaply made with bad sound/video quality). The problem with cassettes was always that the tape inside could snap regardless of how well you treated them. VHS tapes were more robust than audio tapes, but that didn't stop them getting caught in players.
Statler: They sure don't make encyclopedias like they used to.
Waldorf: I remember them being heavier... with content.