Tech Talk: Mourning the death of Kodak, digital pioneers

Published: Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 10:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 10:55 p.m.

In an era where picture taking is reaching new plateaus in popularity, it's hard to imagine that Kodak, the company that practically invented the photographic process and the technology that would define digital cameras, is on life support.

Multiple reports, including one from the Wall Street Journal, says the former blue chip company is looking to "burn the furniture," i.e.: selling its multiple patents to stave off bankruptcy.

The candle of hope is all but blown out for a company that practically wrote the book on being a successful tech company over its 120-year existence.

Kodak is as American as apple pie on the Fourth of July, yet a series of business blunders means that the company whose technology and research prepared the feast for others has no place to eat at the table.

Surely nobody is looking to fire up the old film camera or to run down to the one-hour photo lab, but Kodak saw past that, even in the 1970s when it developed the first megapixel sensor and many of the processes that are alive in every digital camera today.

They even owned the market for point and shoot digital cameras in the mid 2000s. Unfortunately, while they fueled the birth of the digital revolution, they never got ahead of the game in profits.

In Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs is a little known reference to one of the passions that burned in the iconic Jobs. He wanted to revolutionize photography. While he far from invented cell phone photography, the passing of Kodak can easily be attributed to fulfilling such a prophecy.

The bottom line is that Kodak is widely credited for bringing photography to the masses in 1900 with the Brownie camera and steadily kept up with the trends until the masses starting pulling out their smart phones to takes pictures.

2007 was the year the iPhone was released, albeit with a lousy camera. Coincidentally, that was the last year Kodak turned a profit.

Nonetheless, it's worth celebrating the impact Kodak left on society, even if most teenagers would give you a dumbfounded look if you mentioned "Kodak moment."

To put it in perspective, what Kodak has meant to photography can be compared to what the forward pass has meant to football, what turkey has meant to Thanksgiving or what the paycheck has meant to work. Yep, it's huge.

After shooting and developing literally tens of thousands of rolls of 35mm film, I simply close my eyes and think of that 37th frame on my last roll of Kodachrome.

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