Retro Products For The Digital Age

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The Impossible Project saved Polaroid film before it went off the market. It bought the last remaining factory and restarted production. And a gadget called the Instant Lab prints Polaroids from your iPhone.


And today's last word in business is about a different kind of maker. You might call them re-inventors. Go to a store aimed at teens and 20-somethings, like Urban Outfitters, and you'll find lots of retro products for the digital age. You too can own everything from record players that convert your favorite songs from vinyl to MP3s, to reconditioned Polaroid cameras with their magic film.


INSKEEP: There you go. Give that to a moment to kind of develop. Polaroid film is still around because of a company called The Impossible Project. The company's goal was to save Polaroid film before it went off the market. It bought the last remaining factory and restarted production. And the gamble - we're told - paid off.

Even with each pack of film selling for around $30, David Bias, an executive with the company, says the project is selling enough film to turn a profit.

DAVID BIAS: Based on last year's numbers and this year's numbers worldwide, we're looking at making roughly about a million packs of film this year.

INSKEEP: Now a company that specializes in retrofitting technologies has a new development for this market - a gadget called the Instant Lab. It prints Polaroids right from your iPhone. Ideas like this are inspiring other retro revivalists like Jack Zylkin.


INSKEEP: You recognized that sound, right? Maybe you don't. Anyway, Zylkin invented what's called the USB Typewriter, which turns old typewriters into keyboards for iPads and computers. Zylkin calls it a revolutionary advancement in the field of obsolescence. He compares his motivation to a rescue mission - like the one in the story of "The Velveteen Rabbit."

JACK ZYLKIN: You always feel so sad for that rabbit that got thrown out. Even though it's an inanimate object, it still you just want to rescue it and bring it home again.

INSKEEP: Touch screen keyboards and apps like Instagram may be more efficient but maybe consumers want something they can hear, something they can feel. Here's David Bias of The Impossible Project.

BIAS: Pixels are cheap and everywhere. The photograph that you hold in your hand and that you put on your wall, or that you send to your friend, this has a real value and I think the more digital we get the more value of there are in the real tangible things.

INSKEEP: Tangible things. Like a knob that tunes a radio to MORNING EDITION.


INSKEEP: Yeah, that's the business news on MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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