Shake It Like a Polaroid Obit

High-resolution photo courtesy the killer.

Blame it on the memory card. Polaroid Instant Film is dead at 60ish. The cause of death was murder. The Digital Age, 25, of Silicon Valley, Calif., admitted to the crime.

Born to Edwin Land after his daughter asked why she could not see a picture instantly, the film was the marvel of its age. The first Instant Film camera, the Model 95, made 3 1/4'' by 4 1/4'' photos and sold for $89.75 when it was rolled out in November 1948. Soon it became the chief product of the Polaroid Corporation, and by 1956 1 million Model 95s were sold. In the 1970s Sir Lawrence Olivier and Alan Alda pitched Instant Film to the nation, and in 1975 Polacolor 2, the first color version was introduced. Sales topped 6 million, and Instant Film was on the cover of Life.

But time was cruel to Instant Film. Starting in the 1990s, digital images became increasingly popular. An ongoing legal battle with Eastman Kodak ended in victory, but Instant Film's age was beginning to show. It continued to improve but in mostly cosmetic ways. By the beginning of this millennium, Instant Film was looking for a fresh start. In 2000 it tried to revive its career as a hip new thing. It marketed itself as Polaroid i-Zone, taking both miniature photos as well as digital images. The makeover is mostly a flop. Two years later, Instant Film made one more attempt at staying relevant by offering i-Zone Fortune Film which revealed fortunes and jokes along with the micro-size photos.

A photo taken a few years before Instant Film's Death.

But the joke was literally and figuratively on Instant Film, and its own fortune was grim. The Polaroid Corporation filed for bankruptcy later that year. The mighty megabyte had conquered. Instant Film's will is being examined, and a licensing agreement for potential future production, to keep its memory alive, is a possibility. Instant Film's legacy will be one of brilliant innovation turned novelty by the march of technology from which it sprung. Instant Film will be buried in photography and science textbooks and museums.

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