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Friday, June 29, 2012

the dot

So here we are.
Technology. It just keeps on chugging forward, at ever-faster speeds. We can’t help but fall in love with all things new, for we are not so evolved that we don’t still get distracted by shiny things. 
The 1980s were the first shiny decade, at least as far as I was concerned. Granted, I hadn’t been living that long, but compared to the muted, avocado/mustard/burnt orange shades of the 1970s, the 80s absolutely sparkled. Holy crap... DeLoreans! Erasable pens! Home computers! Compact Discs! The Space Shuttle! Devo! Beep-boop-beep... the future has arrived! Thanks, technology!

Yes, I was sucked in by the promise of the 80s, and like so many other people, fell in love with the idea of having cutting-edge technology in my life.
There was only one thing wrong with that. We had no money. None. So while we did eventually get a VCR, it was a Beta. Yeah. We were that family.
So you can imagine my dropped jaw the day that a brand-new camera crossed our threshold around 1983. And not just any camera, either.
It was a Kodak Disc camera. 
This would be the point where most blogs would post a stolen photo of a Kodak Disc camera, but this is not a blog. So, for the uneducated and/or youngsters, here is a link to an excellent reference:
The commercial even ends with jingle singers belting, “Picture a Brand New World!” I’m telling you, everything was new in the 1980s!
I don’t recall how we acquired this nifty piece of the 80s, but it was an welcome addition to our household. We’d previously had an old 110 camera (one that required flash bulbs, no less) that had stopped working a year or so earlier, so our precious moments went un-captured for a significant period of time. 
Sadly, we never took copious pictures even after we got the sleek new camera, because we didn’t have that many precious moments anyway. That and the fact that film - and processing - was expensive.
But then came 1987-1988, and a small window in my overachieving high school life where I won an essay contest and found myself in great places, meeting great people. And that spiffy Kodak Disc was right by my side. I snapped away, knowing precious little about photography... but hey, I didn’t have to! The magical Disc camera did it all for me! It advanced the film! It flashed automatically! It focused automatically! What was there to know? Thanks, technology!
And I spent hours arranging these prints in another relatively new product: the “magnetic” photo album, which was not magnetic at all, but rather just had sticky pages covered in plastic. You could make a scrapbook without glue or those little photo corners! Not as cutting-edge as, say, keyboard guitars, but still a novelty. These albums would tell the heavily edited tales of my later high school years, but they mostly sat on shelves.
Many wonderful things happened to me in college.  One was that I was able to move forward with my life, geographically, emotionally, and photographically: I learned how to use an SLR camera, and the Kodak Disc (that I’d been allowed to take to school) was lost or stolen.
It is now almost twenty-five years later. I am still chasing technology, and having all of my old photo negatives scanned into jpegs. Disc film, however, cannot be scanned. The negatives are too tiny and the disc design makes it impossible for the images to lay flat against a scanner. Thanks, technology! To digitize my high school era, I’ll have to go to the prints and have them scanned instead.
So I am de-assembling large magnetic photo albums, with their yellowed glue. Some photos release all too easily, flying out as I flip a page. Others are locked in a death grip with unforgiving adhesive. This technology did not age well, either. Sorry, landfills. 
I am looking at pictures I’ve not seen in years. There are countless shots of me with my unfortunate perm barely able to stay in the frame. There are out-of-focus closeups with too much flash which make the subjects look like bad mimes. And there are pictures that look less like photographs and more like paintings by Georges Seurat. It’s Kodak pointillism. (Cue Sondheim: Look, I took a picture of a hat!)
You can call it whatever you want, low-resolution or high-grain, but really, people in photos taken by a Kodak Disc from any distance greater than 7 feet away just look like dots (or large smudges) with hair and maybe eyes, and definitely no nose, thanks to the teensy negative. This was amplified by a caption I’d written long ago beneath one picture of an awards banquet, with a spotlight on a faraway emcee:
The dot is Ed Asner.
Granted, in our brave new age of ultra high-definition with its millions of megapixels, where the current technology now amplifies every hair and pore, wrinkle and mole, Ed Asner might actually prefer to be a dot. Thanks, technology indeed.   
Yes indeed. Welcome to me. 

P.S. I never met Ed Asner. I only captured him in dot form. I regret both of these facts daily.


  1. The Disc Camera is why Kodak failed. :-D

  2. Yet Asner lives! There is still time! THERE IS STILL TIME!