Forty years ago today, Edwin Land took the stage at Polaroid’s annual meeting to introduce SX-70. He had teased it for years, once briefly revealing an early model (prototype? block of wood?) in his coat pocket, then mentioning it in carefully doled-out bits of information. This week, though, it was time for the whole thing to be shown, and quite a show it was. A Polaroid warehouse in Needham, Massachusetts, was fitted out as a makeshift theater; octagonal stations were built where photos could be shot and displayed. There were a couple of hundred working cameras in the room—and indeed in the world, because production hadn’t ramped up yet.
The shareholders watched photos being taken and saw them develop, but the cameras were hands-off, because Polaroid feared industrial spies, especially from Kodak. Every photo that was shot got a hole punched in its white border, and was then anchored with a stout steel pin to a slotted piece of solid oak lining one of the octagons. One photo got out anyway, as did a bag of the hole-punch chads, which most likely went to Kodak for chemical analysis.
In between demonstrations and lectures, the shareholders got to watch a short film made by Charles and Ray Eames, titled SX-70. It’s just a marvel of understated selling: the power of explanation and demonstration, deployed in the service of a fantastically interesting product. If you haven’t seen it before, you are in for an extremely nice 11 minutes. Enjoy:
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