This is my little piece of the world. I'm a relentless tech junkie and prepress guy ...these are my ramblings and useless swill.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Growing up along side the Yellow Box

he Eastman Kodak I remember as a child growing up in a small suburb of Rochester NY is one that will forever be in my mind. When I was born I was given shares of Kodak stock as a birth gift, which I still have to this day. It just shows what a mark Kodak had in our community. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in a subdivision where almost all our neighbors were employed by the “Big Yellow Box”… as it was affectionately called back in the day. We always had a freezer in the basement stuffed to the gills with small yellow Kodak boxes and plastic black canisters. ASA 64, 100, 200, 400 and, oh, there was some 800 in there- maybe even a 1600 would sneak in there on occasion. We had color slide film, color print film, black and white, high speed, low speed, low light…that freezer stored hundreds of rolls of film. All chilled down to a nice 0 degrees to keep it all nice and fresh. We never purchased any as all our friends would give us gobs of film at holiday time…or any time really, as we lived in the town of milk and honey, or as we called it, Kodak film! How many times would my dad say, “Tommy! Go get your Dad a new roll of film.” And I would run to the basement freezer to grab a few rolls for good old Dad. Dad would shoot Kodak film with near reckless abandon in his Canon AE-1 knowing the processing was included in many of the pictures he would take. Our dear next door neighbors, the McAllister’s, would even take the rolls to work with them to get the film processed at no charge. What a great land we lived in. Free film and prints to boot!

I still remember the day when the shoe fell. It was a dark and stormy day… black clouds filled the sky. An edict came from on high at Kodak central, “NO MORE FREE FILM!” People walked the streets, bouncing into walls not knowing what to do. What once was free we now had to add to our budgets? Well, thankfully the Clifford’s had a freezer chock full of film, some of which remains there today.

We lived not too far from former Kodak CEO Kay Whitmore and once he took me on a tour of Kodak Park…from the CEO standpoint. Nice gig! I remember one afternoon Kay brought over one of the new “Kodak Camcorders”. It was the huge one that rested on your shoulder but also sat in a cradle on your TV and acted as a VCR. Great idea but didn’t last too long. What about Kodak batteries or that Disc Camera? Well… In 1984 that was the extent of the innovation that came from Kodak Park. Batteries, camcorders, and what about that Polaroid knockoff? Ouch! the lawsuit over that one.

Rochester NY is tied to the successes and failures of Kodak. Boy, where there some black Fridays when Kodak announced layoffs. 25,000, 50,000 even 75,000 people would lose their jobs worldwide with the brunt of the punishment coming to Rochester. Kodak really lacked consumer innovation back in the day. Where was good old George Eastman when you needed him? Some of the crap that Kodak came out with was really stunning. But on sheer size alone, they labored through the 90’s and early 2000’s like a sick elephant. Cutting and trimming what they could, but what they really needed was a culture shift. Film and print as we knew it was dying- and they knew it.

Enter Kodak the 2000’s. A portion of the yellow box is fading. Film is dying right in front of their eyes and there is nothing they can do to stop it. Kodak knows the secret sauce and everyone else has it except them. So they are simply buying it up! Kodak is purchasing companies as fast as it can. Kodak nabs Nexpress, ENCAD, OFoto, Scitex Digtal Printing and Creo. Kodak is a digital media giant. It is hip, cool and most of all fresh. Kodak has blogs, Kodak is using Twitter, and Kodak is on TLC with Trading Spaces. Kodak has a huge theater in Hollywood, home of the Academy Awards. Kodak has a CMOS that may be in the very phone you are using now… or will be soon. Does it get any more glam than that? Digital prepress, digital proofing, digital print, digital cameras, digital photo frames and high end digital imaging. its almost as if it is turning into a "Kodak World"...who said that on TV. I know.. I know! I had to say it. Sorry Jeff I like the motto that Gene so affectionately gave on Celebrity Apprentice. Kodak is back and the Big Yellow Box is in style and I love every moment of it.

This isn’t the Kodak of days old. It's been a fun, exciting, and amazing journey to watch. Look back at where they have come from.

“Hey dad, do you need another roll of film? I’ll get it.”


  1. Wow! You have been paying attention! We just launched a page that links to all the social media sites we are on to feature all the cool stuff we are doing.

    Thanks for the great post! - Jenny Cisney (Kodak Chief Blogger)

  2. Tom from Kodak here. I echo Jenny's comment. Many don't dig deeper to find out what is really cooking here. True, lots of twists and turns, ups and downs during this historic transformation but photography and imaging science are still core to our DNA. Check out this video - some of the facts may surprise you...
    When the freezer is finally empty drop me a line ;-) -tom


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