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Innovation for the Sake of Permanence

Why more companies are turning a handsome profit by helping consumers recapture the glories of the past.

Innovation is often meant to improve upon what came before. But sometimes the aim of progress is to help us appreciate what we already have, or pine for what we lost. This is particularly true in our maturing relationship with technology. People who have for the past fifteen years acclimated to the ephemeral and limitless nature of digital goods are reacquiring a taste for things that feel enduring, authentic, and worth keeping. In effect, we are harnessing today's technology to instill a sense of permanence in our lives. Let's take a look at the new leaders of this "Make It Last" Revolution.

Hipstamatic, the iPhone app of the year, employs software filters that makes a smartphone perform like an analog camera. Instead of click and post, Hipstamatic makes you think about the importance of the moment. For each photo you choose lenses, film types and flash modes to compose the photograph just like a real camera.  Even the image is processed slowly. Everything about the Hipstamatic experience is meant to generate a more lasting connection to taking digital photos. Ironic that Hipsta's popularity comes amid the recent passing of Kodachrome. Perhaps it too will be rescued by The Impossible Project, which brought back the delight of taking a Polaroid picture.

The aim of these apps is to make a photograph not feel as disposable as it would if, say, it were taken on a smartphone. In fact, many of these photos are now posted on photo-sharing sites like Instagram, along with the 8mm vintage camera app which creates a vintage patina to smartphone video. Other photography projects cast modern life into historical context. TrendHunter contrasts street scenes from the past alongside their appearance today, while the Museum of London App lets you see what London's city streets looked like two hundred years ago. In a sense the app turns the whole city into an extension of the museum.

Quality and craftsmanship also reinforce our desire for heritage and tradition. DODOcase is the iPad case whose stated mission is to save the art of bookbinding from extinction. Recently, founder Patrick Buckley was awarded the $100,000 grand prize through a Shopify-sponsored Build-A-Business competition. In fashion, Filson is devoted to heritage and bespoke goods, while Howie's message is to buy things that last with labels in each garment that list the owner's name and the date owned in order of the years.  We've also seen a resurgence of Vinyl Record shops and the highly popular Tumblr Vinyl Sundays, which gives the old '33 analog product a digital amplifier. All feel new and familiar at the same time.

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