Digital disaster led Eastman Kodak to bankruptcy

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Eastman Kodak, the 131-year-old photography pioneer that has continuously struggled for years to transform it to a technologically advanced digital world, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early on Thursday.

Kodak founder and American inventor, George Eastman had patented a way of storing film in rolls in 1884. But it was not for long, until four years later that he had perfected the first camera to enjoy the advantage of his invention. The first Kodak camera was launched back in 1888 with the slogan: “You press the button, we do the rest.” It cost $25 and came with enough film to take 100 pictures.

In 1895, the Pocket Kodak was introduced at a price of just $5. It was portable and could be carried in a coat pocket. It was by 1976 that Kodak had been successful in acquiring a 90 percent market share for photographic film and an 85 percent share of camera sales in the U.S. Kodak was the very first company to develop a working digital camera.

Kodak’s past success was entirely based on a single business model of a genius. They sold film, they sold the chemicals which were used to develop the film and then they sold the paper upon which the photographs from the film were then printed out. As a result, when digital technology came to challenge their perfect model, it was outright refused by the executives who had spent their entire career in the world of film, chemicals and paper.

Kodak – the American icon had tried a number of turnaround strategies and cost reduction strategies recently, but the company which has since 2004 reported only one full year of profits — ultimately ran short of cash.

Kodak’s chief financial officer, Antoinette P. McCorvey has said in a court filing on Thursday, “Since 2008, despite Kodak’s best efforts, restructuring costs and recessionary forces have continued to negatively impact the company’s liquidity position”.

That is how Kodak has become the latest victim to falter in the face of technological advancement.

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