The Idea for the Polaroid Camera Was Sparked by an Impatient 3-year Old

By Gizmodo on at

By Sean Buckley

Everybody you know is spoiled rotten: we carry around magical slabs of technology that can capture any moment and instantly share it with everyone we know. It's great, but it didn't used to be this way—amateur photographers used to have to wait weeks to see their pictures.

In 1943, it was too much for one 3-year old girl. "Why can't I see these pictures right now?" she asked her father. "I don't want to wait." Lucky for her (and everybody else in the 20th century) her father was Edwin Land: the mind behind the Polaroid instant camera.

Land's company wouldn't bear the fruit of his daughter's impatience for years, but the idea was planted: why should we have to wait? When Polaroid's contracts for anti-glare lenses died up in the wake of World War II, the company needed new customers. After failing to sell polarised headlights to automobile manufacturers, Land returned to his daughter's simple idea: revolutionising photography.

When Land started, developing film was an arduous 11 step process. When he launched the Polaroid Model 95 in 1948, he had distilled it down to just one: taking a picture. Land's process squeezed a special "pod" of chemicals through a roller to develop the pictures, and Polaroid conscripted Kodak to manufacture the patented film. Later, in the 1970s, Kodak would go on to make its own instant camera—sparking a £598 million patent lawsuit that would go on for 15 years. It's a pretty crazy story.

Want to hear it all? One of the lawyers involved wrote an upcoming book called A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War.

You can read more of the story at The Boston Globe. [Boston Globe]

Top image via diser55/Flickr.