I ran into a trouble a couple of weeks ago. My Sony TCM-400 tape recorder was starting to show signs of ending. I can not rewind and the play mechanism often freezes. I would have to say though, to be fair to the Sony corp. designers, this tape recorder has lasted 16 years without a single complaint.
The design has a slow down/speed up dial on the right and a regular or half speed recording switch on the left. Its mic was good and did well against wind. A standard 60 minute take on half speed could last (do the math) 120 minutes, though you got a drop in quality and sounded like a chipmunk if the tape were played on a regular speed deck.
I went looking for a replacement and was out of luck for a new Sony. Actually I noticed a really interesting thing at the electronics shops here in Japan; you could barely find any of the players/recorders in stock! People are still buying them up. I found this one on sale for around $30 with a stripped down design that boasts a simple hole style mic and a typical button lay out. It is nearly identical to my Sony in size and weight, a big plus as it fits in the palm of my hand.
Sure the Sony had a counter, VOR auto sound ON recording, a half speed and a pause button, but they are all asides to the fact it records sound. The ELPA has almost nothing, but it has enough and is at a good price point.
Why do I even bother with using tapes???? Well, they don’t get damaged by water, they are easily recycled and they are analog. They take batteries and work pretty well. And I use them to dictate and write with, so that is the key point.
Find what works, keep moving with it.