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 user 2008-03-12 at 1:35:20 pm Views: 32
  • #21503

    Ingenuity, diligence launched Kodak, Xerox
    residence of the late Wilson Soule on East Avenue, one of the costliest
    and handsomest residences in the city, has been sold by Mrs. Soule …
    to George Eastman, of the Eastman Kodak Company, the price being set at
    $110,000.”— Democrat and Chronicle, Sept. 29, 1894

    Eastman’s road to success was not nearly as rocky as that of John
    Bausch, who we discussed in last week’s column. When Eastman bought the
    Soule mansion, he was 40 years old. By his mid-40s, he was worth
    $425,000 a year.

    But getting to that point was not exactly a stroll along a primrose path either.

    life was both easy and tough,” biographer Elizabeth Brayer writes. “A
    reticent, diminutive boy, he lost his father at age seven.” His mother
    had to take in boarders to make ends meet; the family survived in a
    sort of “genteel poverty.” And yet, the loss of this father “focused
    rather than diminished his life as he quickly assumed the role of head
    of family.” By 23, he had already been working nearly 10 years. He had
    been an insurance agent, then bank clerk. Then a transforming moment
    occurred.A contemplated trip to Santo Domingo did not come off, but in
    making preparations, Eastman bought a camera and “became totally
    absorbed in photography.”

    Early photography
    Taking a picture
    in those days was no easy task. The cameras were large and bulky and
    had to be mounted on tripods. Images were captured not on film, but on
    glass “wet plates,” which had to be coated with collodion and
    sensitized with nitrates just before exposure. So the photographer had
    to also carry along a corrosive silver nitrate bath and a dark tent. No
    wonder photography in those days was the pursuit of professionals and
    only a small cadre of dedicated amateurs. Eastman was convinced there
    had to be an easier way.The first step was the development of “dry
    plates,” coated with a mix of nitrates, bromide and gelatin that would
    remain sensitive even after drying. This meant a photographer would no
    longer have to carry chemicals into the field.When Eastman read about
    this development, he realized it was “the technology of the future,”
    notes Douglas Collins in The Story of Kodak. Eastman set up a makeshift
    lab in his mother’s kitchen and began perfecting the emulsion that had
    to be applied to the plates.Three years later, in 1880, Eastman had a
    fledgling dry-plate business up and running. The following Jan. 1 he
    had a partner. Henry Strong, who had lodged with the Eastmans in the
    1860s and was a successful buggy-whip manufacturer, provided $6,000 in
    much needed capital.Very quickly, Eastman Dry Plate Co. built a
    reputation for its quality product and for fair dealing. When a problem
    with the gelatin caused a large batch of dry plates to fail, Eastman
    quickly replaced them.It was but one of Eastman’s business traits that
    would lead to success. The other was his fervent belief that the growth
    of the industry depended on simplifying the art of photography, so that
    anyone, even a child, could take a picture.With that in mind, Collins
    notes, Eastman began “item by item to redesign each piece of equipment
    in the nineteenth-century photographic kit bag.”

    Camera, film innovations
    He did so at breakneck speed:
    Eastman’s company starts putting light-sensitive emulsion on paper, not
    plates, stored on a roll holder — the first crude “roll of film” and
    “the beginning of a complete change in photography,” according to Kodak

    1888: The “Kodak” name is coined; the first Kodak
    camera is marketed, loaded with enough film for 100 pictures and
    selling for $25. Once the film was exposed, the camera and film was
    returned to Rochester for the film to be developed, prints made and
    camera reloaded, all for 10 dollars. “You press the button — we do the
    rest,” was the company slogan.

    1891: The company markets its first daylight-loading camera.

    The first Brownie cameras are introduced. The cameras cost a dollar
    each; the film only 15 cents a roll. “For the first time, the hobby of
    photography was within the financial reach of almost everyone,”
    Milestones notes.Eastman Kodak was off and running. And as the years
    passed, Eastman would devote more and more of his time and money to
    philanthropic pursuits, in ways that have indelibly shaped our

    A historic coincidence
    In 1906, a great
    coincidence occurred. Four men in Rochester “met in a room over the
    Ford Shoe factory to establish the Haloid Co.,” Rudolf Kingslake notes
    in The Photographic Manufacturing Companies of Rochester, New York. And
    that same year Chester Carlson was born in Seattle.

    Decades later, they would combine to create a photocopying giant called Xerox.
    made photographic paper, and soon found there was another market for
    its product besides photographic prints. The first crude photographic
    document printer — called the Rectigraph — had been invented. Its
    inventor moved his operation to Rochester in 1909 to be closer to
    Haloid, his principal source of paper and chemicals.Acquisition of the
    Rectigraph Co. in 1936 “gave Haloid an application for their excellent
    copying paper,” Kingslake writes.Carlson, in the meantime, was toiling
    over an easier and less expensive way to make copies, one that would
    transform Haloid on a scale none of its original founders had ever
    imagined.His story, like that of Bausch, and like that of Eastman, is
    one of great perseverance.

    A copying breakthrough
    Carlson was
    a physics-trained New York patent attorney who had graduated from the
    California Institute of Technology at the worst possible time: The
    Great Depression. He applied to 82 companies for jobs, and got only two
    responses.He landed a position at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New
    York City, only to be laid off. He earned a law degree by studying at
    night while working at an electronics firm, and was promoted to manager
    of the firm’s patent office.Carlson noticed there never seemed to be
    enough carbon copies of patent specifications, and had an idea: What if
    a device could be invented that would make copies of documents in mere
    seconds using ordinary paper?”Obeying the inventor’s instinct to travel
    the uncharted course, Carlson turned to the little-known field of
    photoconductivity,” notes an online Xerox history.Some of his first
    experiments were in his kitchen at home — just like Bausch, and just
    like Eastman, and much to the dismay of his wife. He eventually rented
    a single room above a bar in Astoria — his new lab — and hired a German
    refugee named Otto Kornei to help with the research.The first image
    they succeed in reproducing: “10-22-38 ASTORIA.”

    The birth of Xerox
    his process could work was only the start. Selling others on the idea
    was something else again.”He pounded the pavement for years in a
    fruitless search for a company that would develop his invention into a
    useful product. From 1939 to 1944 he was turned down by more than
    twenty companies,” according to the Xerox history.Finally Battelle
    Memorial Institute, a nonprofit research organization, signed a royalty
    sharing contract with Carlson. In 1947, Battelle entered an agreement
    with Haloid, giving the small company the right to develop a
    xerographic machine.

    And the rest is history.
    Much as Henry
    Lomb was essential to Bausch’s success, so too was Joseph C. Wilson to
    the success of Carlson’s invention. The Haloid president, along with
    other company officials, “saw enormous potential” in the new copying
    process “where others saw only the hazards,” a company online history
    notes.”In a sense, Xerox was to mimic the explosive growth that Kodak
    had enjoyed some sixty years before,” Kingslake adds. “However, there
    were significant differences. Kodak had grown by catering to the
    amateur and professional market, offering the photographer a complete
    line of the materials, services and apparatus that were required to
    take photographs. Xerox, on the other hand, grew by supplying
    industries and offices with machines that produced a product — copies —
    that they needed, but until Xerox produced a fast, convenient way of
    making them, they never realized they needed in such quantity.”