You are right, the stuff was "added on" in those days and tended to fail before the rest of the car - I think originally it only had to be warranted by the manufacturer for 5 years/50K miles or something like that. Nowdays it's built into the engine and control system and pretty much lasts like the rest of the vehicle.
The vapor ("Charcoal") canister may be "worn out" (that is, the charcoal won't absorb/release gas vapors any more). I have thought about trying to open one up and refill it with new charcoal, that's really the only thing that can wear out. I've also had the problem you mention with the rubber fittings cracking. As you can tell, I've noticed these issues with the system but haven't really gotten around to fixing it ! :-)
posted by 74.46.75...
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