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The Kodak Story


The Kodak story (The Rise and Fall of an Empire)

Imagine if a product you created is the product that would put you out of business. That is the epic story of the Kodak Empire. In 1892 George Eastman established Kodak. Before he founded Kodak, Photography was nowhere near what it is today. To take a simple Picture, you would have to assemble huge machinery. Professional Photography was more lucrative business than it is today because cameras cost more and where not in the hands of every Tom, Dick or Harry. Kind of like the computer world. George Eastman essentially did to photography what Steve Jobs and Bill gates did to the computer. That is putting it in the hands of the everyday people who need not understand the working operations of the computer as long as it can carry out and satisfy their desires.
The first Kodak camera.
from ssplprints.com

We use computers to do things we cannot explain because some people believed the cumbersome process could be simplified and made available to all. This was also the concept that essentially brought about the Kodak Empire. The hectic process of creating pictures and developing them was made a lot simpler. Kodak put cameras in the hands of common people in order to capture what they called “Kodak moments”. They made keeping memories possible, capturing time on a paper became easy.

It is rumoured that George Eastman invested in the heavy machinery used as cameras back in the day while he was about embarking on a trip he failed to make eventually. He kept his camera and then carried out several experimental processes with the aim of simplifying the process. He was successful and hence the birth of photographic film Cameras. I had the Opportunity of owning one of those but never developed any of my Pictures.

It is therefore Ironical that the thought process that brought about the Kodak Empire was also going to pull it down. I presume that perhaps if George Eastman was alive the story might have gone differently.

The Kodak Company was dominant in the photographic scene from 1892 into the 20th century because it controlled the entire process of photography at that time. You were likely to take a picture with a Kodak camera and also develop that picture at a Kodak Photography Lab. The Kodak Company also sold the Films on which these pictures were developed from. They employed a lot of people and were content with their monopoly.

Therefore when an employee from Kodak developed a process in 1975 to take pictures and display it without the use of photographic films or development they were quick to throw it away. They claimed no one would ever want to view their pictures on a screen; they would rather want it developed like they have always for the last century. They did not have the courage to look into the future!

They shut down this employee’s Project and asked him to keep it quiet, but secured a patent for his discovery. It is rumoured that they even carried out a study to see when the new technology would be a threat to their Photographic film Venture. They were told that it would be about 10 years which was enough time for them to dominate this new industry and own this new technology. Instead they wished it away and hoped it would die. This proved to be the worst decision they ever made.

I have no idea how the tech got out to competitors, but around the early 1980’s Sony was releasing her first electronic camera and the executives at Kodak were asked if they thought the electronic camera was a threat to their film based industry but I guess pride made them laugh it off. I mean they were Kodak, or so they thought.

Fast forward to the late 1990’s Kodak is already struggling with financial problems because of the rise of the electronic camera. They then resulted to aggressive Litigations against companies like Apple, Samsung etc. for using their technology in their products. Well they owned the Patent of the core technology employed in the digital camera. They made some money from these law suits but it was not enough. By the 21st century they had to sell some of these patents to the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft. Companies thriving from a technology she created but failed to acknowledge. They had filed for bankruptcy but are currently trying to bounce back from their error, but is it too late for Kodak???

Kodak has now transitioned and left its Film based industry to the electronic camera in an attempt at recovery
Photo from google images
Late transition to the electronic camera
photo from google images

In a stark contrast, Facebook recently bought Instagram for billions while Kodak is struggling. Instagram that has about 20 active people involved sold for that much while an empire like Kodak who employed armies of thousands has had to downsize . May I remind us that Instagram thrives off Kodak’s Tech?? An Irony!!

One of the early ads of kodak (most of which were written by george eastman) started with "Anybody who can wind a watch can use a Kodak camera" . They still went on to make the mistake of not  adapting when the process was getting simpler than winding a watch.

I researched and wrote on this story essentially to share an important lesson which is that we should be quick to adapt to change and accept new developments in our lives. We cannot commit the same error Kodak made and think things would always be the same. We must be ready to adapt to the changes life throws at us. What might you be going through?

You just graduated from the university and can’t find a good job? You should accept this reality and do something about your situation. Always find a way to react positively to change. Be Pre active, that way you would respond in a good way to change.

Another story worth sharing is one that is dear to my heart, because it is not a 1917 bla bla kind of story. It unfolded right before my eyes. It is about my dad. My dad and his colleagues were laid off from a teaching job some of them had worked over 20 years at. This could have been depressing, but SIX(6) of them decided to be preactive and responded positively to the change and began their own establishment! Today, this school is doing extremely well .  They recently celebrated their 10th year anniversary.  Amazing  yeah?

In conclusion I would like to add that there might be unwanted situations you might be surrounded with but there is always SENSE found in nonSENSE change your situation and create your future

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