Eastman Kodak Company, abbreviated to Kodak, is an American photographic, motion picture, computer, printing and X-ray company founded in 1881 by George Eastman.
George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, was born on 12 July 1854 in Waterville, a small town in New York State.
Home-schooled, he stopped his studies at the age of fourteen following the death of his father. First employed by an insurance company and then by a bank, he became fascinated by photography at the age of twenty-four (in 1877).
He then spent his nights doing various experiments to perfect and simplify photography for the general public. After three years of research, he patented in 1880 a dry plate process and a machine for preparing a large number of plates. This invention was inspired by an article in a British almanac (a book containing a calendar and astronomical, meteorological and scientific information).
In the same year he opened his first photographic plate factory in Rochester.
In 1885, George Eastman developed the world’s first commercial film.
Three years later, in 1888, Eastman founded the Kodak brand and introduced the world’s first camera. The principle was revolutionary for its time: “You press the button, we do the rest”. The camera was compact and for everyone, you could get it for 25 dollars and take a hundred pictures with it.
Among his other innovations, we find in 1889 the transparent nitrocellulose film. He also worked with Thomas Edison in 1891 to subscribe his camera, creating an improved film. In 1900, he launched the Brownie range, designed by Frank Brownell, for one dollar a camera.
In 1925, George Eastman gave up the day-to-day management of Kodak and ended his life in 1932. He left only a simple note: “My work is done, why wait? He was 77 years old at the time.
A story full of first times…
In 1900, thanks to his Brownie camera sold for one dollar, photography was democratised, allowing anyone to take pictures.
In 1969, Kodak went to the Moon (or at least its cameras), accompanying the Apollo 11 mission. With their cameras, the astronauts photographed our planet from space for the very first time in history.
As a reminder, Apollo 11 was a mission during which men landed on the Moon. A historic first!
Six years later, a Kodak engineer named Steve Sassen invented the first digital camera.
In 1986, the company developed the first camera-sized megapixel sensor. Then, in 1991, they made the first digital SLR camera.
… but with bounces
While on top, the company was accused of patent infringement by the Polaroid Corporation in 1986. Kodak lost the case and had to refocus on its business. In 1994, they sold their pharmaceutical business to the Sanofi Group and discontinued their personal care products, household products and medical imaging division.
Kodak also missed the digital shift. In 2004, the company gradually moved away from its film-based photography business to focus on digital photography and film.
Unfortunately without much success, the company was threatened with bankruptcy in 2012. To get out of its difficulties, they sold patents to Apple and Google. In early 2014, the photo division was acquired by JKimaging, a company that manufactures and sells digital imaging products.
Kodak also announced in 2018, the creation of its own cryptocurrency, KodakCoin.
Today, Kodak continues to push the boundaries of what is possible. They invented the world’s first digital camera, the first printing plate that eliminates the need for chemicals and the world’s fastest commercial inkjet press.
Kodak also has its own clothing brand in partnership with Hilighbrands.