the simple fact is that things WERE better built 50 years ago
That is not a simple fact, but a grandiose fact claim on your part.
Some products may have been more durable in the past, some not so much. You would have to look at a case by case analysis, do some testing, empirical work to figure out what is true.
Metal and steel rusts and bends. Lots of mechanical and moving parts can cause all sorts of problems, line shafts wear out, cloth cables, springs, reed relais, etc.
Wooden joints that where glued or screwed together tend to get loose, etc.
No material is perfect. And cost saving can leed to simplicity, which can benefit durability greatly.
I believe that especially eletronics and computing is getting much better. Complicated VHS tape drives broke down all of the time. Reel to Reel tape drives had lots of problems. Optical is better and solid state even moreso.