The rise and fall of Kodak

On Jan. 19, Eastman Kodak filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection. It's a surprising turn for a company that for decades was an innovator in photo development. Here's a look at its storied past.

On Jan. 19, Eastman Kodak filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection. Here's a look at the photography giant's storied past.

1881: Rochester, N.Y., businessmen George Eastman and Henry Strong create a partnership called the Eastman Dry Plate Company, which develops the plates necessary for film development. Unlike the wet plates that are the industry standard, Eastman creates gelatin dry plates, which can be exposed and developed at the photographer's convenience.

1888: Eastman registers the trademark Kodak. George Eastman claimed he came up with the unique name while playing an anagram game. That same year, the company releases the Kodak camera, with the slogan "You press the button… we do the rest," thus introducing the concept of snapshot photography.

1892: The company is renamed Eastman Kodak.

1900: Kodak releases the Brownie, an easy-to-use pocket-sized camera that sells for $1, with film at 15 cents a roll. The Brownie brings picture-taking to the masses.

1935: The company launches Kodachrome. The first commercially successful amateur colour film, it would be famously celebrated in Paul Simon’s 1973 song of the same name.

1942: George Eastman dies.

1955: Kodak begins selling colour film that doesn’t include the cost of processing, which eventually gives rise to independent photofinishers. (Arguably the most famous would be Fotomat, a company that operated kiosks in shopping centre parking lots in the U.S. between the mid-’60s and the ’90s.)

1963: Kodak introduces its line of Instamatic cameras, which feature cartridge-loading film and make amateur photography even easier and affordable.

1975: The company, led by engineer Steve Sasson, produces a prototype for the first digital — or "film-less" — camera. The size of a breadbox, it takes black-and-white pictures at a resolution of 10,000 pixels (.01 megapixels).

1984: Kodak makes a foray into the video market by introducing cassettes in 8mm, Beta and VHS formats, as well as a line of floppy disks for personal computers.

1995: Kodak files a petition with the World Trade Organization claiming that its poor sales performance in Japan — the second-biggest market in the world for photo products, after the U.S. — was the result of unfair practices undertaken by competitor Fuji. Three years later, the WTO would reject Kodak’s complaint.

1996: In response to the burgeoning consumer market for digital cameras, Kodak launches the first in a series of pocket-sized digital cameras.

2001: The company introduces the Kodak EasyShare system, a suite of consumer photography products that includes digital cameras, printers, accessories and software.

2004: Kodak is dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average index, after being listed for 74 years.

January 2012: Kodak files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.