Some people think that in order to communicate you have to use writing or words. But pictures are another important way to communicate, and they've been around since 1825. In fact, you may have heard the expression, "A picture's worth a thousand words." Just think about all the information that is communicated in historical photographs or even in simple everyday pictures. And of course, we wouldn't have photographs without the invention of the handheld camera.
You know the thing you hold in your hand that helps you take a picture? Well, a man named George Eastman was the first person to mass produce that little gadget - known as a handheld camera. Keep reading to find out how he invented it.
The Dry Plate
Before the hand held camera was invented, taking a picture was pretty difficult. You had to hire a professional and highly trained person to set up all the equipment and take the picture. George Eastman enjoyed taking pictures, but he also wanted to make picture taking easier. His first invention was the dry plate. At first, he made the dry plates at home in Rochester, New York. Pictures taken on a dry plate didn't get ruined very easily, so this was a big step forward for photography. Finally, he finished inventing the dry plate. It was a big hit, and he began to manufacture dry plates. But, George Eastman still wanted something better.
When George Eastman Invented Film
George was so into the camera that he hardly ever slept or got any rest. Here’s something funny for you: if he ever slept, it would be in his laboratory. I guess he didn’t need a bedroom in the house he lived in. Finally, he invented a thin strip of coded paper. He called it “film.” It was so much easier than dry plates! You just had to put it on a small spool, and the film could be put in any camera.
A Problem With Film
The only problem was that the people who used cameras (professional photographers) liked the dry plates. Plus they liked the idea of taking pictures in their studio and not worrying about carrying heavy equipment. If only Eastman could make something that would convince people to use film. That brings us to the grand finale (drum roll), THE HANDHELD CAMERA.
The Handheld Camera
For three years, he worked on his miraculous invention. THEN IN 1888, HE INVENTED THE HANDHELD CAMERA. Now people just had to aim and press a button. The best part was that you could get a camera full of film, a carrying strap, and a leather case. After all the pictures were taken, you’d send your camera to the Eastman Film Company. They’d develop the pictures and send you a new camera and film. Now this is the most amazing thing, Eastman knew that not everybody could pay $25 for a Kodak camera, so he made a bulls eye camera that was $12 and a falcon camera that was $5! Later, George thought to himself that when he was a kid he didn’t have enough money to buy a camera. He decided to make another camera for children who were poor. George made the camera and called it the brownie. Soon hundreds of kids were saving up money to buy a $2 brownie!
The Name Kodak
George Eastman named his company Eastman Kodak. Some people wonder where Eastman got the name Kodak. The truth is that Eastman invented the word. He said, "I devised the name myself. The letter "K" had been a favorite with me -- it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter. It became a question of trying out a great number of combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with 'K.' The word 'Kodak' is the result."
Thanks to the genius of this man anyone can take a picture by simply pressing a button on a handheld camera. His work allowed all of us to become photographers.
Joseph, Paul. George Eastman. Edina, Minnesota: Abdo & Daughters. 1997.
"About his life." Kodak. 3 April 2005 <http://www.kodak.com/US/en/corp/kodakHistory/eastmanTheMan.shtml>.
Photograph of George Eastman stamp has been released into the public domain under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page>.
Copyrighted clip art images and photographs of cameras from "Microsoft Office Online" <http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us&cag=1> (October-March, 2004-2005). Clip art available only to licensed users for non-commercial purposes.