Kodak’s view of digital photography in the 1970s

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“They were convinced that no one would ever want to look at their pictures on a television set,” he said. “Print had been with us for over 100 years, no one was complaining about prints, they were very inexpensive, and so why would anyone want to look at their picture on a television set?” More at NYT.

Oops.

6 thoughts on “Kodak’s view of digital photography in the 1970s

  1. Well, to be fair digital slideshows on tvs are a thing but haven’t set the world on fire…

    When you see the options for display they had then, they would have had to see the Internet and then smartphones to really understand how ubiquitous digital images would be in the consumer space. (Of course in the meanwhile they could have explored medical imagery etc…) Waiting 23 seconds for 100×100 pixels to stream to tape takes a lot of imagination to see the future through…

    That said, my first digital camera was the hyper-minimalist Kodak DC20 in 1996 or so – no LCD screen, no flash, a cut out rather than a proper view finder.493×373 photos in TIF format.

  2. As soon as you say why or why bother, you close your mind to any possibility surrounding the idea. In this case if they were simply looking being able to show pictures on a TV, they missed the point, which is immediacy and convenience. I can see it now. I don’t have to have it developed. For most people that trumps quality every time.

    Just shuddered as I wrote “trumps”. I think we need a new word for that and maybe in Bridge as well. Just for a few more years.

    1. Still, it was REALLY pie in the sky stuff in the 70s. Only a few companies can afford to make pure research labs, ala Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (and even they weren’t as far ahead looking as “lets really be the masters of digital photography” would have to be) 20 years after that black and white demo, my digital camera was MAYBE worthwhile despite it’s lack of image quality, thanks to the Internet. 5 years later and I had photos that were ok on the screen, and MAYBE of quality to print out. etc.

      I mean think about picture phones. In the 50s, maybe, they’d show wiz-bang “THIS IS THE FUTURE” demos at World’s Fairs. 40s year later in the 90s, it’s pretty easy and accessible… but it still doesn’t matter. It’s a novelty because it’s not where the future really was centered. If you pushed to be the King of Skype, devoted all your energies into that, that crown would not be worth all the opportunities you passed by to get there.

      1. Interesting that even though Kodak wasn’t really interested, they allowed him to continue his research. Kodak was a tech company by 70s standards.

        The idea isn’t to say that something’s impossible, just that it’s not feasible or saleable today. Doesn’t mean that you stop looking at it. Isn’t that one of the jobs of an executive, to encourage or foresee what might be coming? To be an enabler? Simply saying no never stopped anything from eventually being created.

        1. Well, an executive’s job at a publically owned company is to increase shareholder value.
          It can be long game or short game…. too often the short game, but to see the potential of this from 100×100 pixels vs what 70s film could do – (like being put in a photo album or book, for instance) was pretty darn long game

          But I think we’ve reached an impasse, I do see some of your point, and neither of us is wrong, just a matter of opinion.

          1. I guess I would have hoped for more. I feel sorry for Sasson, although he was right in the end. I certainly hope he enjoyed the research end of it. I know how frustrating it can be to present a new concept.

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