Kodak Today

Today, Eastman Kodak is a world leader in both consumer and specialist photographic products. It has won eight Oscars for its technical contributions to the movie industry and is dominant in the field of medical laser imaging. The company’s involvement in the development of plastics for photographic film, film containers, and camera bodies resulted in sideways expansion into the fields of synthetic fibers, coal-based industrial chemicals, and general plastics. In the 1990s, Eastman Kodak decided to concentrate on its core businesses and divested itself of peripheral interests by selling off the Eastman Chemical Company and its pharmaceutical businesses. In spite of growing competition from Japanese companies since the 1950s, Eastman Kodak has been able to maintain a healthy share of the camera and film markets in the United States and overseas. The one notable exception has been Japan. In 1995, the company petitioned the U.S. government to take action against anticompetitive trade practices in the Japanese photographic film market. Two years later, the U.S. government responded by filing the case with the World Trade Organization, as yet unresolved.

Tea Makers

Given the British preference for a cup of tea with breakfast, it is hardly surprising that automatic tea makers appeared there. The earliest example was patented by Frank Clarke, a Birmingham gunsmith, in 1902. It operated through springs and levers connected to an alarm clock. When set it would ignite a match by running it across emery paper, thus lighting a spirit lamp that would heat the kettle above it.

The Goblin Company, which was well known for its vacuum cleaners, produced the first electric machine in 1933, the Goblin Teasmade. Designed by Brenner Thornton, it was also linked to an alarm clock but had a special kettle that could be set to boil before the alarm went off. The boiling water decanted into the teapot, which sat on a stand.

The weight of the water slightly tipped the teapot, engaging a switch that lit a bedside lamp attached to the machine. Despite folktales of scalded sleepers who had forgotten to replace the teapot, the Teasmade gradually became relatively popular.

Meanwhile, the tea bag was introduced in America. Designed by Thomas Sullivan in New York, its intended use was for sampling tea. It went into commercial production for caterers and had become a popular domestic item by the 1930s. The New York–based Tetley introduced tea bags into Britain in 1953.


A refrigerator is an artificially cooled cabinet for storage of perishable foods. Cooling occurs when the refrigerant, preferably a substance with a low boiling point, is forced to change from a liquid to a gas by the application of pressure or heat. As the liquid evaporates, it draws heat from its surroundings, thus chilling food. The gas is then caused to reliquify either by being passed outside the

cabinet to a condenser, where it is able to expand and give off heat to the surrounding air, or by gravity. This cycle operates continuously. The basic principles of both methods of refrigeration— compression and (heat) absorption—were established in the nineteenth century and applied in commercial contexts such as brewing and shipment of meat. Refrigerators on a smaller scale, suitable for household use, did not appear until the early twentieth century.

Before domestic refrigerators became available, for many households the only way to keep food cool was by storing it in a naturally cool place, such as a cellar or a larder. A more effective method was to pack blocks of ice around food. Ice became more widespread as a commercial commodity in Europe, Canada, and the United States during the nineteenth century. By 1900, department stores were stocking ice boxes, which were well-insulated wooden cabinets with one compartment for ice, another for food, and a tray to collect water when the ice began to melt. 1930s Electrolux electric refrigerator, sold in Britain through the General Electric Company .

Record Players

Until the late nineteenth century, the only form of musical entertainment available in the home was live performance. While wealthy householders could afford to hire professional singers and musicians to provide entertainment at social gatherings, most people had to rely on their own musical abilities. The invention of the phonograph in 1877, followed by the gramophone in 1888, introduced recorded music to the home. Although a third of British homes had a gramophone by 1913, it was only after the advent of vinyl discs in the late 1940s that recorded music became a huge money earner.

RCA (Radio Corporation of America )

The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was formed in 1919 to acquire the assets of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. It was initially owned by corporate investors, including General Electric and Westinghouse, and became an independent company in 1932. Since 1988, RCA 1960s, to develop a videodisc format. Three rival video disc formats were announced in 1975, all play only and nonrecordable, and appeared on the market a few years later. RCA’s Selectavision system, launched in 1978, was competitively priced but unattractive to consumers in comparison with recordable videocassette systems. After five years, when it ceased Selectavision production, RCA had sold half a million players and 10 million discs, but had spent $300 million on research and development and lost approximately the same amount on production.

Perhaps not surprisingly, following the commercial disaster of Selectavision, RCA ceased to be an independent company in 1986 when it was taken over by General Electric. Less predictably, little more than a year later, General Electric sold off not only RCA, but also its own consumer electronics operations, to the French electronics multinational Thomson Grand Public. The enlarged company was renamed Thomson Consumer Electronics. Ironically, Thomson began life as the French subsidiary of the U.S. Thomson-Houston Electric Company, which merged with Edison Electric Light Company to form General Electric in 1892. This completed a series of prestigious acquisitions by Thomson in the 1980s, which include the German companies SABA and Telefunken and the British company Ferguson. Under new ownership, RCA began to flourish again. It reached a major milestone in 1989 when its 50 millionth color television set came off the assembly line at its plant in Bloomington, Indiana, which is the world’s largest television assembly plant.

In 1993, Thomson became a founding member of the Digital HDTV Grand Alliance, an international body formed to agree on global standards. A year later, the RCA Digital Satellite System introduced digital satellite television broadcasting in the United States. The parent company, Thomson Consumer Electronics, was renamed Thomson Multimedia in 1995 to signal its growing interest in digital home-entertainment products. Moreover, in 1998, it made equity holdings available to four companies that were considered to be suitable partners for new digital developments. These companies, with an aggregate 25 percent shareholding, are Microsoft, DirecTV, Alcatel, and NEC.


For over 200 years most Western men have, in accordance with the dictates of fashion, Gillette responded with its own version within a year. Wet razors have continued to market themselves on the concept of the close, refreshing shave. This has led to the introduction of dual and triple bladed shaving heads.

The 1980s saw the range of razors increase, with more models being introduced for women, most being battery operated and useable on wet or dry skin. They are consciously designed in pastel colors, as opposed to men’s razors, which usually have black plastic or aluminum cases. Most men’s razors are now cordless socket/battery combinations. The Philishave Cool Skin has electric blades and a cartridge for shaving gel, combining the features of wet and dry shaving.

Ice Crushers

Crushed ice became popular for cooling drinks and cocktails in the 1920s and 1930s. Simple ice crushers were usually hinged presses of cast aluminum. The upper handle had a head of spiked teeth that crushed the ice into the lower pan. Another version, popular in the 1950s, had a hopper above a set of hand-cranked teeth with a plastic container for the crushed ice to fall into below. Capable of producing coarse and fine granules, they can crush a quart of ice in two minutes. These models were available in reds and yellows with chromed lids. They are still on sale as retro kitchenware. Electrically operated models are also available.

Fax Machines

A facsimile (fax) machine is a machine that copies the image of a document, sends it to another location, and reproduces it exactly. Early facsimile machines were developed in the nineteenth century, but in its modern form, compact and cheap enough for household use, the fax machine is a product of the late twentieth century.

Nineteenth century facsimile machines, such as those developed by Alexander Bain and Frederick Bakewell in England and Giovanni Caselli in Italy, used mechanical methods of copying and reproduction. The contents of the document were traced by a pen and the movement of the pen was recreated at the other end. This technique was slow and laborious. In 1873,Willoughby Smith showed that pulses of light converted to pulses of electric current and sent by wire could be reconverted by a selenium photoelectric cell. This technique was used to send newspaper photos. A breakthrough occurred in Germany in 1902, when Arthur Korn invented a method for transmitting photographs by electric wire. This process, telephotography, was used to send the first intercity fax, between Munich and Berlin in 1907. The first machine to employ document scanning, as in the modern fax machine, was the Belinograph, invented by the Frenchman such machines expensive to use. In the 1970s, Japanese companies began to develop faster, smaller, cheaper, and more efficient fax machines. Japan was also the country with the highest level of ownership. By 1985, the number of fax machines in use in the United States had grown to 550,000, whereas Japan had 850,000 and Europe only 120,000. From the mid-1980s, the availability of combined telephone and fax machines made the fax machine more appealing for home use. By 1989, there were 4 million fax machines in the United States.

Fax technology has continued to improve. Early fax machines required expensive thermal paper impregnated with carbon. In such machines, the thermal paper, held on a drum, is heated when current flows through the stylus, releasing the carbon to the paper surface to recreate the transmitted document. To improve print quality and enable the use of ordinary office paper, manufacturers developed “plain paper” fax machines that use either ink film or ink-jets. The Japanese company Canon launched the first plain paper fax machine in 1987. Ink film still relies on thermal technology but the ink is transferred from a thermal film to plain paper, whereas ink-jets spray ink through tiny perforations in the printer head directly onto plain paper. Early fax/phones had to be manually set to act as phone or fax, which could be frustrating. This was solved by the development of automatic fax/phones that could detect whether the incoming message originated from a telephone or fax machine and respond accordingly. Today, the top range fax machines are fully compatible with personal computers, so that they can fulfill a variety of scanning and printing functions.

APS and Digital Photography

Both of the latest developments in photography draw on electronic technology. It was almost inevitable that digital photography would emerge in the wake of digital computers and digital sound recording. The key component of a digital camera is a powerful sensor capable of translating the light components of an image into a sufficient number of pixels for it to be reproducible as a continuous image. In 1986, Eastman Kodak developed the first megapixel sensor, with a capacity broadly equivalent to the content of a 13 by 18 cm (5 by 7 inch) photograph. Digital cameras soon followed, with Japanese companies predictably leading the way in making the technology affordable. All digital cameras have the common feature of being filmless, but there are several methods of storing images, including computer floppy disks, removable memory cards, and built-in memory. Eastman Kodak’s PhotoCD pioneered digital technology whereby negatives on film can be scanned and stored digitally on compact disc. The PhotoCD system was introduced in 1990. For the private consumer, the main disadvantage of digital photography is that the quality of output from the typical home printer is far below that of conventional photographic printing.

APS, the Advanced Photo System, was developed by a consortium of five companies—Eastman Kodak and four Japanese companies, Fuji, Nikon, Canon, and Minolta. The APS project began in 1992, and APS cameras and film went on the market in 1996. APS cameras take cartridges of 24 mm film, which incorporates magnetic strips for storing information from sensors about date and time, exposure length, and size settings. Date or message imprinting and normal/panoramic size settings were features already incorporated in some 35 mm cameras; the additional advantages of APS are that the film is thinner and hence the cartridges are slimmer, permitting corresponding slimmer and lighter cameras, and the developed negatives are rewound into the cartridge after printing, so there is less danger of damage through mishandling. A reference set of contact prints is provided to facilitate reordering of prints.