Monday, 1 April 2013

Definition: Persistent Technology

This is a term I came up with in 2012 after I took a deep dive into what attracts me to certain things. I was looking for a common thread across the following interests that I have:

  • Cameras (Mechanical, pre-digital)

  • Pens (Fountain)

  • Watches (Mechanical, no electronics)

  • Cars (Land Rover Defender)

  • Calculators (Early electronic)
What I discovered is a "timeless" consistency, where a feature, design or technology has reached maturity and has remained available, even where newer products have overtaken in affordability, performance and sales volumes.

For example, the Leica MP from 2003 (on left) shares significant DNA with the 1954 Leica M3 (on right) that started the M rangefinder series 60 years ago. Even today, Leica still sell the mechanical MP for around $5k, body only.
Leica MP (modern) and M3 (1954)

The modern fountain pen's metal-nib is hardly different to those made 200 years ago, and yet there are a number of well-known brands that have turned this technology into an art form. A 25c ball-point pen may be convenient (and rarely leaks), yet nothing beats the feel of a luxurious fountain pen laying down a steady flow of ink
The mechanical watch is probably the best example of completely outdated technology persisting alongside the far superior quartz technology. The mechanical escapement that regulates a clock dates back to the 14-century and while you needed a clock tower to house these machines, the "modern" lever escapement technology found in mechanical watches today was invented over 250 years ago and has hardly changed since then.
The Land Rover Defender is a direct descendent of the 1948 Series 1. Still using a ladder chassis with aluminium sheeting riveted to the body, the "modern" Defender is a relic of bygone motoring that refuses to die - but Landy owners love them! 
Land Rover Series 1
Which brings me to the Hewlett-Packard 12C financial calculator. Predating the PC and the Internet, the 12C has remained in continual production for over 30 years making it the oldest "consumer electronic product" still in production. This is an amazing piece of early electronic technology and will be the subject of my next blog entry.
So Persistent Technology has a home, and these are just a few examples. Why is this important? Well, if you could identify Persistent Technology at the START of a product's lifecycle, just think how valuable this knowledge will be! A topic for another day...

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