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A Kodak Moment

It’s sad to hear Kodak filing for bankruptcy.  And I’m sure a lot of people give a little sigh of regret with a tinge of nostalgia at hearing the news.  Though in a way, it’s well overdue.  I mean, who uses cameras with films these days?  Actually, my last Kodak camera was well over a decade ago.  It was one of the first digital cameras in the market and with 3 megapixels to boot.  And you could do cool stuff like photo-sharing and print the photos up yourself.  But then it didn’t last very long before other slimmer, fancier looking digital cameras with bigger megapixels flooded the market and suddenly my Kodak camera seemed rather old-fashioned.  From then on, with the emergence of everything digital and with built-in cameras and photo-sharing capability, like the mobile phones, well, we really haven’t heard anything from Kodak in the last ten years.

But still, the name is synonymous with camera, having been around for 131 years and was the first to introduce an apparatus that even a child could use, making photography a simple recreation that anyone could indulge in.  As a matter of fact, I have an aunt who still refers to a camera as a ‘Kodak’, which goes to show how ubiquitous the brand was in the global household.  And of course, we still talk about a ‘Kodak moment’ when talking about an event that is particularly memorable, because for a long time, the easiest way to record that event and put it to memory is with a Kodak film or a Kodak Instamatic camera.

However, such is life these days, where technology demands that everything must change in a matter of months rather than years if products were to keep up with the competitors and grab a slice of the market, and where producers of new gadgets depend on how fast they could churn out their new features before others beat them to it, often offering similar features.  Miss that window of opportunity and it could cost them their company.  The demise of Kodak is just the last nail on the coffin of the Twentieth Century.

From the consumer’s perspective, it’s not that we really need or use all these new features that make these gadgets irresistible.  It’s the fact that they offer the idea of newness.  Faster, lighter, sleeker, bigger capacity, higher resolution etc.  Though not necessarily more efficient.  At least in what it’s supposed to do.

For example, my super-duper mobile phone can do practically everything.  However, half of the time it hangs while the other half it freezes as it tries to juggle all the stuff it’s trying to do (download email, synchronizing calendar, updating Twitter, coping with Group messages etc.), stuff that has nothing to do with making phone calls, which was why the mobile phone was designed in the first place.  My first mobile phone by the way was a Siemens.  There was nothing wrong with it, until one with a smaller design came along.  Which also got chucked when one with a camera came along, and so on and so forth, until the average time for holding on to a gadget is less than a couple of years.

There was a time when you need one gadget to write letter, essays and memos on, one gadget to record video, one to record sound, a nice leather bound Filofax for your notes or a handsome Agenda on your table,  perhaps even a digital Personal Organiser (I went through a couple of them, but kept losing them in the back of taxis), and if we want to really go back to the dark days before computers and word processors, a typewriter (mine was an Olympus) whose ribbon you have to change from time to time so that your fingers are either black with ink or white with TippEx, the typing correction fluid.

And then, there was the camera with the cartridge films of 24 and 36 (colour or black-and-white) which you take to the film developers to have them developed and printed.  This was always my ‘Kodak moment’ in the real sense of the word.  The anticipation of opening up the envelope with the photos to see how well (or badly they’ve turned up) and the pleasure of showing them to others, yes, even mailing copies to faraway friends, and then putting them neatly and in order in one’s photo albums.

With today’s new fangled gadgets that can do almost everything at a touch of a button, it is this Kodak moment that I miss.  I can take hundreds of pictures with my mobile phone and yet never get to really enjoy them properly, especially when I change mobiles and the pictures get deleted or transferred to a computer that got outdated and never switched on.

What is more, with practically every gadget able to take pictures, the sheer effort of putting them together, deleting the ones that are not up to scratch, filing them and uploading them onto the computer or the Internet, is just too time-consuming, not to mention all those megabytes a burden on my poor computer’s memory.   And the number of photos recording the moment too numerous to make any of the picture special.

The last time my photo album was updated was 1999.  And when I do finally get round to getting the photos printed and putting them in the album however, I will already know what the photos look like and how well they’ve turned out.  There will not be a Kodak moment.

(Desi Anwar:  First published in The Jakarta Globe)