I recently finished A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War which starts with a wonderful biography of Edwin Land and ends with a ton of detail about the Polaroid/Kodak lawsuit. Polaroid was a remarkable company and it’s both amazing that it’s no longer around and remarkable that the modern tech world doesn’t seem to appreciate Polaroid and Edwin Land. We put Steve Jobs on a pedestal but Edwin Land was the precursor. He leveraged technology to create incredible consumer products and made Polaroid the Apple of its day.
Polaroid is gone but it’s a shame that so few of us have an appreciation for it in its prime. These days, so many advances are digital that we take them for granted but it must have been inspiring to be at the introduction of the SX-70, the first truly one step instant camera.
If you’ve ever taken a photography class and developed a black and white photo you know how complicated the development process is. Color is an order of magnitude more difficult. Now imagine being able to do that inside a camera. The achievement is difficult to imagine now but it must have been unfathomable to those that saw it for the first time in the 70s.
We stand on the shoulders of giants and it’s important for us to appreciate that every now and then. A good way is to read history books and get an understanding of the challenges our predecessors faced, struggled with, and overcame.