Friday, January 20, 2012

A Kodak moment - victim of the digital revolution

You've probably seen the news today, Kodak has filed for bankruptcy and become the most recent victim of the digital revolution that Kodak's management struggled, and failed, for a decade to adapt to. I wrote this in chapter 10 of The Universal Machine a few months ago:


"...they are an example of computers transforming the way we do things. For example, digital cameras have transformed the way we all take and share photos - no more buying expensive rolls of film, taking a few precious photos, waiting for the roll to be full, sending the film off to be developed and finally getting 24 photos back, half of which are blurry and badly composed.  Now we shoot dozens of photos, delete the ones we don’t like, crop, enhance and improve the ones we do, and then share them with our friends on Flickr and Facebook." 


Take a while to think about this transformation. Kodak was a part of everyones' life, their family history. My parents used to have an American couple they knew send them Kodak color Super 8  film  in the 1960s because it was very hard to get in England. My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic - I loved it, it made me feel like an adult since taking photos was serious adult business. I'm sure many of you remember your father (it was always father in control of the camera) taking forever to compose a shot whilst the family fidgeted and smiles froze on faces. You'll also remember the excitement when the developed prints came back in the post or were collected from the chemists. The laughter and groans as prints revealed you looking silly or happy and the ribbing the "photographer" got for every blurred or over exposed photo.
    Those days are long gone. Now photography is more instant than my Instamatic could have dreamed of. I take photographs every day and literally hundreds when I'm on holiday. Separate cameras themselves are even threatened as smartphones include better and better built in photography. My new iPhone has an 8 megapixel camera and is ready to snap a photo in a second. Why would I carry a separate camera? Kodak's moment has passed, but our love of taking photos hasn't.


[PS If you have hundreds of digital photos, particularly treasured ones of your children, please please please upload them to a cloud file storage service. Dropbox, SugarSync, Picasa, iCloud and others are free or inexpensive. You will feel terrible when that hard drive fails or your laptop is stolen with all your photos on.]