The Kodak picture

It was a Kodak moment today when the company filed for bankruptcy and there’s a pretty good chance few people get the pun. It wasn’t always that way, of course. Probably millions of homes have shoeboxes full of unsorted pictures, all taken with Kodak film and printed on Kodak paper.

The writing has been on the digital wall for years; it’s hard to believe there was anyone still working at the company who didn’t know they were on the good ship Titanic.

Nonetheless, its history alone documents the way the country once was, the same way its products preserved how our families once were. In the ’20s, for example, the company started the Eastman Savings and Loan Association to help employees finance home purchases.

A look at some of the historic Kodak commercials not only tells the tale of the company, but how much a commercial product can influence the culture and lives we lead.

Take the ’50s, for example, when Kodak offered “easy payment terms” on a camera that cost $29.95 ($230 in today’s dollars). .

The ’60s brought the concept of cartridge-loading film, which eliminated the need to manually load film through reels and sprockets. And it ended the era of fumbling for a flash bulb for every shot.

In 1975, Kodak engineer Steven Sasson invents the world’s first digital camera. It recorded black-and-white images at .01 megapixels.

In the ’70s, this jingle became so popular, it later became a pop radio hit:

In the ’80s, however, popular music migrated from the radio to the commercials:

And, being the ’80s, throwing cameras away became acceptable when Kodak introduced the Fling Camera.

By the 1990s, Kodak was trying to keep up with technology by getting into other businesses. It bought a pharmaceutical business. And it manufactured batteries.

It tried a digital makeover in 1994:

But by the mid-’90s, Kodak had a ton of debt, and began selling off its assets. It sold its office products division and non-imaging health divisions. In ’99, the digital printer business was sold to a German firm.

Late in the ’90s, the company joined with America Online to deliver processed film via your computer.

By the new millennium, the company was still embracing the idea that your pictures would be printed on paper:

But in 2004, Kodak was dropped from the Dow 30, it shed thousands of jobs, and its digital camera line was sold.

In 2010, it sued Apple, claiming the smartphone technology belonged to it.

In recent years, Kodak tried to be hip, the same way any person in decline tries to be hip. Embarrassingly.

Last year, the company tried to raise money by selling about ,100 digital-imaging patents. But a judge delayed decisions on the patents, and Kodak’s shares dropped below $1. The stench of economic death was in the air.

The companies digital and printing technologies, which last year accounted for 75 percent of its revenue, may be one of the few specialties left if and when Kodak emerges from bankruptcy.

  • Jim Shapiro

    I have a motorola/kodak cellphone. 5g camera, which was ahead of it’s time when it was released. ( I’m not smart enough/addictive enough for a smartphone yet ๐Ÿ™‚

  • jay sieling

    Wasn’t it just last year that the last remaining roll of Kodachrome film was shot and developed?

  • Todd

    How ironic that a Kodak engineer was the first to design the instrument that would eventually lead to the demise of this very same company. Kind of an Oedipus moment.

  • Bob from the 60’s

    No company in the world knows more about the science of color than Kodak. Not Sony, Not Nikon, Not Canon, Not HP, Not Apple.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Todd – “Kind of an Oedipus moment.”

    Beautiful. Do you give lessons? ๐Ÿ™‚