Eastman Kodak, the 19th-century company that put the concept of a “Kodak moment” into popular culture, itself missed critical opportunities to understand its core business as photography itself, opting instead to bet on film and prints in a world where technological innovations would rule the day.
Online business channel Cheddar examines in a video how the Eastman Kodak Company went from standing on the precipice of a new industry — digital photography — to near obsolescence.
In 1975, then-24-year-old Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the world’s first digital camera — a behemoth that used a lens from a Super-8 movie camera mated to a charged-coupled device (CCD), a portable digital cassette recorder and 16 nickle-cadmium batteries.
“It only took 50 milliseconds to capture the image, but it took 23 seconds to record it to the tape,” Sasson said in an interview with The New York Times.
But with 90 percent of the world’s film sales in 1976, Kodak wasn’t about to cannibalize its biggest cash cow.
The decision made short-term sense: In 1996, the company was valued at $31 billion, making it the fifth-largest U.S. corporation, and its revenues hit a never-to-be-repeated $16 billion.
“Kodak, which had always embraced holistic, diverse innovation, chose film over photography,” Cheddar’s Carl Mueller says. “The near-sighted view allowed competitors to fill the void.”