Designing for longevity

Posted on May 05, 2013 by Richard Hoptroff

5th May 2013, Clink Street, London

Few product makers these days design for longevity.  Clocks built centuries ago still work, yet how many early digital watches do? 
The Clock of the Long Now is an exception.  It's designed to last for ten thousand years.  Given that ten thousand years ago we'd only just worked out how to bang the rocks together, we know that we can't predict anything about how the human race will evolve over that time span.  The only way to truly design longevity is to design a product so it can function without the need for anything else.

We face similar issues in designing our timepieces.  Will the programming in the flash memory last?  Yes, for hundreds of years, at least.  Will our optical interface continue to be relevant as screen technologies evolve?  After all, Timex's DataLink didn't - it only worked with CRT screens.  Likewise, as we design products with Bluetooth or USB interfaces, how sure can we be that these interfaces will still be around in a hundred years?  They have reached their teenage years, which is a good sign. 

However, the reality is that we can't rely on them.  There needs to be back-up mechanism to control the device.  In our case, we're ensuring you can always set the time and other features of the watch using the pushers alone.  It won't be the most fun thing you ever did with a watch, but it will be possible.  And yes, we did check - the pushers are guaranteed for 100,000 operations, so they won't be wearing out anytime soon.


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