(Originally posted 25 Dec 2013. Updated and slightly expanded with additional references 16 Feb 2014)
I grew up in the “Kodak Moment” era. I remember the advertisements. Later, I worked in a camera store where I saw the advertising material and sold the products. I remember well the Kodak Stock House Dealer Catalog! In addition to current practice, I was very interested in and studied photographic history and built a very small but interesting collection of early equipment. Then the activities of life pulled me away from photography.
Imagine my shock earlier this year, upon returning to photography after a 30 year hiatus, when I discovered that digital photography had all but replaced film photography! I had to begin the process of not only rebuilding my film, paper, chemical photographic processing skills (for large format work), I had to learn a whole new workflow for digital. It has proven quite interesting! All of this in support of my real interest: creating photographic art.
This month (Dec 2013), an article was published discussing a bit of the history of the Eastman Kodak Company, its early role in digital photography, and the effects of that watershed change on the company. It makes for very interesting reading from a number of aspects: digital photography origins, engineering, and especially corporate culture.
Later (Feb 2013) another article was published detailing how the intellectual property sale was low-balled. See also this article for more pictures of the first digital camera and this video where the inventor discusses the camera and disruptive innovation.
Kodak’s plight reminds me of the railroads in the early and middle parts of the twentieth century: They did not see a threat from trucks when they came on the scene and later the same with airplanes. They blindly thought they were in the railroad business. Because they were actually in the transportation business, they failed to adapt.
Similarly, Kodak was not in the chemical photography business, it was also in the imaging business. Their failure to recognize this and adapt to the technological change is in stark contrast to George Eastman’s adaptation – and innovation which caused technological change – just to evolve his company in the early years.
Speaking of technological changes overtaking a company or industry, do you remember K&E, Post, and Dietzgen and their slide rules and drafting equipment? I have a collection of those as well.