"as convenient as a pencil" -- 4/22/15

Today's selection -- from Bold by Peter H. Diamonds and Steven Kotler. In 1888, George Eastman and his Eastman Kodak Company made his newly-invented camera available to the public and in so doing made photography "as convenient as a pencil":

"The year was 1878. George Eastman was a twenty-four-year-old junior clerk at the Rochester Savings Bank in need of a vacation. He chose to go to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. At the suggestion of a coworker, Eastman bought all the requisite photographic equipment to make a record of the trip. It was a lot of equipment: a camera as big as a Rortweiler, a massive tripod, a jug of water, a heavy plateholder, the plates themselves, glass tanks, an assortment of chemicals, and, of course, a large tent -- this last item providing a dark place in which to spread emulsion on the plates before exposure and a dark place to develop them afterwards. Eastman never did go on that vacation.

"Instead, he got obsessed with chemistry. Back then photography was a 'wet' art, but Eastman, who craved a more portable process, read about gelatin emulsions capable of remaining light-sensitive after drying. Working at night, in his mother's kitchen, he began to experiment with his own varieties. A natural-born tinkerer, Eastman took less than two years to invent both a dry plate formula and a machine that fabricated dry plates. The Eastman Dry Plate Company was born.

An original Kodak camera

"More tinkering followed. In 1884, Eastman invented roll film; four years later he came up with a camera capable of taking advantage of that roll. In 1888, that camera became commercially available, later marketed under the slogan 'You press the button, we do the rest.' The Eastman Dry Plate Company had become the Eastman Company, but that name wasn't quite catchy enough. Eastman wanted something stickier, something that people would remember and talk about. One of his favorite letters was K. In 1892, the Eastman Kodak Company was born.

"In those early years, if you would have asked George Eastman about Kodak's business model, he would have said the company was somewhere between a chemical supply house and a dry goods purveyor (if dry plates can be considered dry goods). But that changed quickly. 'The idea gradually dawned on me,' Eastman said, 'that what we were doing was not merely making dry plates, but that we started out to make photography an everyday affair.' Or, as Eastman later rephrased it, he wanted to make photography 'as convenient as a pencil'

"And for the next hundred years, Eastman Kodak did just that."


Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler


Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World


Simon & Schuster


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