When I was young, my aunt took family pictures with her special camera. Polaroid cameras provided an instant picture. Pop a flashbulb on top, look through the little viewfinder, and push the button. No focusing, no finishing the roll, no waiting for developing at the drug store. She snapped the picture and we watched the results spit out as the camera made a winding, grinding noise. My aunt would then grab the output so we kids wouldn’t spoil the picture with fingerprints. We gathered around her as she waved the stiff paper in the air, waiting for it to finish it’s own self-developing. Within a minute, we had a classic family photo.
At first, they were black and white, of course. With the black and white ones, she had to roll a waxy stick over the photo to protect it. Color came a few years later, though the colors on the photos were rather dull with a yellow cast. Polaroid improved the product over the years, and for the past decade the output was quite good. Not fast, but good. The advent of inexpensive digital cameras meant that pictures were even cheaper and faster, leaving the “instant” Polaroid photos in the dust.
On Flickr and other photo sites, Polaroid still has a certain edgy, modern following. But now the Polaroid company has announced that they will discontinue making instant film for the cameras they quit making last year.
The next generation may never know the joy of watching one’s favorite aunt take an instant photo that will embarrass you forever.