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Kodak: The End of an American Moment

The electronics group at Kodak worked on broad sets of projects that ranged from troubleshooting manufacturing lines to proposing new ideas for consumer products. Sasson says the electronic camera was a "very casual" product project.

"So, it wasn't any big plan of mine to sort of disrupt film or anything, I just thought, if you could do this, it would be interesting," he says.

Leaders in Kodak's higher ranks recognized Sasson had created a product with huge implications for the imaging space, but uncertainties remained. So, they approached Sasson and asked him to put together an Invention Report.

Sasson presented his report to company representatives in marketing, business development, organization and research and development. The presentation was straightforward: take pictures of people and show it to them instantly, right there in the room. Sasson didn't present the camera as "digital" because, he says, in the 1970s the word carried a bad reputation. Digital was experimental, expensive, esoteric and unreliable. That's why he called it electronic. He entitled the presentation "filmless photography."

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It was a bold title for a presentation about a new technology that took months to create and didn't use anything Kodak had spent 100 years developing to that point. And there was the simple fact that Sasson was presenting to "film guys."

A business leader who worked with a company that processed microfiche imaging of checks attended one of the meetings and got excited about the camera, Sasson recalls.

"I remember this because I wasn't used to this: he got up, he took a check out of his wallet and slammed it down on there and said, 'Take a picture of that.' Which I did and it went up on the screen. He looked at it and he said, 'Boy, not enough resolution. If we had more resolution, we could really use this'," Sasson says.

It was one of the early problems with Kodak's electronic camera: Sasson's image didn't match the quality of Kodachrome prints.

Another problem was that the camera didn't fit into Kodak's vertically integrated business system.

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