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History of Kodak
  Introduction
George Eastman - the man
  About his Life
Kodak - the company
  Building the Foundation
  Broadening the Impact of Pictures
  Transforming for the Future
Imaging - the basics
  Capturing an Image
  Storing and Sharing Images
  Printing Pictures and Pages
Quality & Ethics - the culture
  Practices and Actions
Milestones - the chronology
  1878-1929
  1930-1959
  1960-1979
  1980-1989
  1990-1999
  2000-Present
Broadening the Impact of Pictures
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When George Eastman marketed the first commercial transparent roll film in 1889, the impact ranged beyond consumer and professional photography. For one thing, it enabled inventor Thomas Edison to develop the first motion picture camera in 1891, and by 1896 Kodak was marketing film specially coated for motion picture use.

That's just an example of the role Kodak has played in a number of key industries.

Motion Pictures

Today, Kodak film continues to record the action on most of the world's movie sets, and is widely used for printing the films shown in neighborhood theaters.

Since the inception of the Academy Awards, all Oscar-winning "Best Pictures" have been shot on Kodak film. The company even has eight Academy Awards of its own -- for scientific and technical excellence.

George Eastman and Thomas Edison
George Eastman and Thomas Edison in 1928.

That's more than any non-studio company--not surprising given that Kodak has been involved in technological innovations throughout the industry's history. Kodak:

  • marketed its first film designed for making then-new "sound" motion pictures In 1929.
  • earned a 1949 Academy Award for a tri-acetate safety film base (introduced in 1948) for motion picture film. This eliminated a significant safety hazard posed by the flammable nitrate film base it replaced, and also helped ensure the long-term integrity of the films.
  • earned another Academy Award for Eastman color negative and color print films (introduced in 1950), which helped popularize color movies for theaters and television.
  • introduced improved emulsion technology with its Eastman EXR color negative film products in 1989. These gave cinematographers significant creative flexibility, providing more underexposure latitude; truer colors in fluorescent light, and greater sharpness.
Academy Award
Kodak has earned eight Academy Awards.

Kodak continues to raise the bar in terms of the quality and results offered by its motion picture films. In 2002, Kodak Vision2 motion picture films were launched. The first in a series of products designed to work with both film and digital postproduction systems, they provide less grain, improved detail in shadows, and increased neutrality in tone and color.

Kodak Vision2 motion picture film
Vision2 color negative film.

Kodak's Cinesite unit is engaged in digital special effects and other post-production services that are important in making movies today. Cinesite digitally restored Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the early 1990s, and since then the unit has created digital effects for about 200 movies, television shows, commercials, and music videos. The 2003 acquisition of Laser-Pacific Media Corporation further expands Kodak's offering of post-production services.

Moving into the future, film remains the primary medium for capture and projection of motion pictures. Still, in response to customer requests, Kodak is also developing a high-quality digital solution. In 2003, the company introduced the Kodak digital cinema operating system for display of pre-show advertising on theater screens. Ultimately, this solution may be upgraded to support digital projection of feature films.

Health Imaging

The company's pivotal role in health imaging began less than a year after Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the x-ray in November 1895. Today, Health Imaging is the company's second largest business, next to photography.

In 1896, Kodak introduced the first capture medium -- a photographic paper -- designed specifically for x-ray image capture. By 1914, the company employed two radiography experts to solve customers' technical problems, and by 1929, the technical staff had increased to 26.

Hand x-ray
The first radiograph was of Mrs. Roentgen's hand.

As the business grew, Kodak adapted its film and imaging technology to meet special needs in the health industry. During World War II, for example, the company devised films to detect radiation exposure for workers developing the atomic bomb. Over the decades, other films with special characteristics were developed for applications like cardiology, dentistry, mammography and oncology (for radiation treatment of cancer).

Along the way, innovative processes improved both the quality and accessibility of x-ray images or radiographs. In 1956, Kodak's X-Omat processor was able to produce finished radiographs in only six minutes; less than a decade later, that time had been cut to a mere 90 seconds. Through acquisition of Imation's medical imaging business in 1998, Kodak incorporated dry-processed films into its portfolio. The popular DryView laser imaging systems can print film images from digital medical imaging sources such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imagers (MRI).

KODAK DirectView PACS system 5
KODAK X-Omat film processor, 1956.

The Health Group also offers computed radiography systems (CR), digital radiography systems (DR), and Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS). PACS allow hospitals to archive, manage, view and share a variety of digital medical images. This capability enables doctors at different locations to review images and consult on diagnosis and on course of treatment.

In addition to products used in medical and dental imaging, the Health Group also provides films and image analysis products to biomolecular research scientists in pharmaceutical companies, universities and government healthcare research facilities.


KODAK DirectView PACS system 5.

Document Imaging

Given young George Eastman's experience as a bank clerk, it's not surprising that, in 1928, his company's new Recordak subsidiary introduced the first microfilm system -- designed to simplify the handling of bank records.

Microfilming involves photographing documents at a greatly reduced size for archiving purposes. By 1931, Recordak had automated the process, moving film in synchronization with documents fed over a revolving drum. This allowed documents of any length to be filmed.


Recordak bank model microfilmer, 1933.

In the decades that followed, technology continued to advance and microfilm became commonplace in many document intensive areas like insurance, libraries, government agencies and transportation.

During World War II, Kodak and its UK operation, Kodak Limited, even adapted microfilm technology to create a system for filming letters sent to soldiers. "Victory mail" -- or "V-mail" as it was called -- was designed to conserve shipping space needed for war materials. It enabled a single mailbag to carry the equivalent of 37 bags of letters. During the 3-years it was used, more than 1/2 billion pieces of v-mail were received by troops abroad.

Building on its success in micrographics and advances in electrophotography, Kodak expanded its business imaging presence in 1975 by entering the copier market. Its first product, the Kodak Ektaprint 100 copier-duplicator, offered high-speed, high-quality plain-paper copies. The company remained in the copier business for more than 20 years, and continues its involvement with electrophotography through participation in a joint venture called NexPress.

Kodak also continues its participation in document management with advanced microfilm systems and a successful family of high-speed document scanners.

Technician with 16 mm V-mail
Technician with 16 mm V-mail.

Ektaprint 235 copier
Ektaprint 235 copier.
Printing and Publishing

Although - from its earliest years - Kodak supplied materials used in the printing industry, the company first sold materials designed for the printing industry in 1912. That year, George Eastman acquired London-based Wratten and Wainwright, which made photo-materials for commercial printing.

In the decades that followed, the Kodak name became increasingly known in the printing industry. Today, Kodak technologies touch about 40% of the world's commercially printed pages.

This success has been built by a number of industry milestones.

  • In 1929, the company introduced high-contrast Kodalith materials, making it easier to prepare halftones for printing. Previously, printers used wet-collodian glass plates, which they had to coat themselves.
  • In the mid-1930's Kodak researchers designed and built the world's first electronic color separation scanner to prepare images for printing. The scanner was sold to a Time, Inc., subsidiary, and a version was ultimately used to produce the color sections of Time-Life magazines.
  • In the 1950's and 60's, Kodak played a key role in the explosion of color in magazines and books. The company researched systems for high-quality color printing, and - through numerous courses, conferences, and product introductions - taught the industry how to do color separation/masking/correction.
  • When electronics was introduced to typesetting in the 1960s, Kodak provided the first high-speed photo-typesetting papers and films. In subsequent years, Kodak continued to introduce many new generations of graphic arts films and printing plates that provided commercial printers with increased quality and convenience.
  • In the early 1990's, Kodak introduced the first - and current industry-leading - infrared digital printing plate, which formed the basis for today's state-of-the-art offset printing. Kodak also introduced the first digital halftone color proofing system, Kodak Approval, that made it possible to see final output quality without starting a press run. The system is still an industry standard for high-quality color proofing.
Approval digital color proofing system
Approval digital color proofing system.

Direct image thermal printing plate
Direct image thermal printing plate.

In the 1990's, Kodak entered into two significant joint ventures.

  • In 1997, Kodak and Sun Chemical formed Kodak Polychrome Graphics. KPG has become the world's largest provider of pre-press consumables (printing plates, films, proofing products, chemistries).
  • In 1998, Kodak and Heidelberg Druckmachinen formed NexPress Solutions LLC. It serves the growing market for on-demand and variable data color printing - providing high-speed, high-quality printing of customized brochures and other materials.

Kodak purchased the remainder of NexPress in 2004 as part of its expanding participation in the commercial printing/graphic communications market.

Space Exploration

Kodak has teamed with NASA on space science and remote sensing missions for more than 40 years. When John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, Kodak film recorded his reactions to traveling through space at 17,400 miles per hour. When Glenn returned to space more than 35 years later, he operated a modified Kodak digital camera to document the historic space shuttle mission.


Earth-rise captured by Kodak's lunar module camera, 1966.

The company was involved with other historic moments as well.

  • In the mid sixties, NASA launched a series of five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft that collectively photographed 99% of the moon's surface in preparation for an Apollo moon landing. Each carried an ingenious photographic system, designed and built by Kodak. The system took photographs, processed and scanned the film, and converted imagery into a continuous video signal for pickup by Kodak-built receivers on Earth. At that time, it was the most complex instrumentation payload ever launched aboard a spacecraft. In addition to medium-resolution images that were taken to analyze the moon's surface topography, the system took a number of high-resolution pictures that were clear enough to show objects the size of a card table on the surface.
  • Kodak technology also went along on Apollo 11, with the first astronauts to walk on the moon. A special stereoscopic color camera built by Kodak enabled astronauts to photograph extreme close-ups of rocks, dust, and minute features of the Moon's surface. The camera, about the size and shape of a large shoebox, was easily operated using a trigger on an extendable handle. This enabled an astronaut to operate it despite the limited mobility, dexterity and visibility caused by their pressure suit and heavy gloves. Photos of the lunar soil taken by Neil Armstrong enabled scientists to see soil particles smaller than two one-thousandths of an inch.
  • The company's high-resolution image sensors were the "eyes" of the Sojourner Rover that traveled the surface of Mars in 1997 during NASA's Pathfinder space mission. These sensors enabled the Rover to see its way across the rough Mars terrain and capture color images of the Martian ground and soil.
NASA's Pathfinder's surface rover
Kodak image sensors gave sight to Mars Rover.
  • Kodak provided precision optics for the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Since its launch in 1999, Chandra has captured images of deep space phenomena like black holes and hot gas clouds in galaxy clusters -- giving astronomers unprecedented information about our universe.

Today, Kodak's tie to space exploration continues with a recent contract to work on the James Webb Space Telescope, a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2010. Using infrared sensors, the James Webb Telescope will peer into distant space to see the first stars and galaxies formed in the universe billions of years ago -- helping astronomers search for fundamental answers about the birth and evolution of galaxies and the size and shape of the universe. Kodak will integrate and test the James Webb's Optical Telescope Element.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for launch in 2010.
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