Sunday, January 08, 2012

Remember the times of your life, Kodak and Penn Camera

Kodak Many of you are probably following the slow, tortuous decline of Kodak into likely bancrupcy and, if lucky, a restructuring that will leave the once iconic company a mere shadow of what it was (see Polaroid which now exists merely as a name with no relation to Edwin Land's original company). Ironically, the company that brought photography to the masses with products from the Brownie to KodoChrome, has as its most valuable asset, patents for digital photography.

Kodak, captured - as the reminded us - the times of our lives. Remember the ad campaign from the 1970s with Paul Anka? Here's a version from 1977:

Michael Hilzik, in the LA Times (4 Dec 2011)  made a salient comparison to other transitional businesses:
Kodak, however, markets a process technology; and as the chemistry of film has yielded to digital electronics, consumer demand for Kodak's traditional products has evaporated. A similar transition afflicts newspapers, book publishers, movie studios, broadcasters and record labels today, but the issues for those industries are different yet.
[insert here "libraries"]

As Don Draper reminds us, "technology is the glittering lure" ... Kodak, once the master of embedding their technology in our lives, seems to have now failed.

On a related note, this week also saw the bancruptcy of Penn Camera, a local Washington, DC institution going back to the 1950s. Ironically, I found out about this the day after it was announced when I was going in to buy a new camera.

I remember going to their old store at Metro Center, full of all kinds of photo gear and smelling of developer and the other chemicals since replaced by digital.

I'm particularly going to miss Penn as I was one of the, apparently, few, who regularly printed out digital photos. With Penn gone, Ritz Camera shrunk to a few inconvenient stores, printing options are now the CVS drugstores or online. I'll miss that ability to queue pictures the night before and pick them up at lunch.

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