I always liked this poem By Percy Shelley
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away
It seems somehow appropriate when I read that Kodak may be facing bankruptcy. Kodak, of course, was the innovator in developing photography and its founder George Eastman did for cameras what Henry Ford did for automobiles. Now, advancing digital technology has made Kodak increasingly obsolete.
The digital revolution has claimed another victim: Reports on Wednesday said that Eastman-Kodak, the venerable film company that pioneered film and cameras as consumer products, may be forced to file for bankruptcy protection in the coming weeks if they cannot sell a trove of digital patents.
Entering Chapter 11 would open a new, and perhaps final, chapter in the company’s long history, which saw it go from a start-up in Rochester, New York, in the late 19th century, to global brand and popular culture icon in the mid-20th century, and then to struggling turnaround candidate in the early 21st century.
The company’s history begins with self-starting tinkerer George Eastman, who saw great potential for the existing technology of capturing images on film. By developing easier to use devices and film, he believed he could turn the camera from a tool of professionals into a plaything for amateurs. “The idea gradually dawned on me,” he later said, “that what we were doing was not merely making dry plates, but that we were starting out to make photography an everyday affair.” His goal, as he later described it, was “to make the camera as convenient as the pencil.”
You mustn’t think that Kodak was one of those companies that refused to change with the times. Kodak proved itself to be eminently adaptable for much of the last century.
Throughout the 20th century, the world of photography was in constant flux. Eastman-Kodak managed to weather several transitions quite well — from mechanical cameras to electric ones, from still photography to video, from black-and-white to color. At each stage, Eastman-Kodak rolled out new products that built on its original, strong market position in old-school still photography
The company didn’t take the digital revolution lying down. But in hindsight, it was almost destined to fall. In the past decade, Eastman-Kodak invested heavily to develop and manufacture digital printers and digital cameras, which it first introduced in 1995. Its products worked. But the company didn’t have a competitive advantage, and it was going up against a lot of tough competitors.
But, the problem is, that cameras are everywhere nowadays. They are in our cellphones, computers, and who knows what else? Who needs an actual camera, except a professional photographer? And, who needs film in this digital age?
I hope that Kodak manages to turn things around, not least because of the people who might lose their jobs. The writer of the article doesn’t seem to be too optimistic.
- Key events in the history of Eastman Kodak Co. (seattlepi.com)
- Bankruptcy of a Legend (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)