1. Bruce Fuentes says

    I am 58 but my youngest are 11 and 14. Not only would they not get the joke, but I don’t think they would even understand the concept of film.

  2. davidc1 says

    I remember seeing a cartoon in a Camera mag ,a man is hiding behind a wall photographing a UFO .
    His wife is tapping him on the shoulder because there is an Alien standing behind them .
    The man is saying ,
    “For gods sake Doris ,not now ,”

  3. PaulBC says

    Doubtful. I was never much of a pre-digital photographer. The joke is that the film will be exposed, right?

    My favorite “old tech” reference is the Stevie Wonder lyric “Just because a record has a groove, don’t make it in the groove.” I remember when they played Sir Duke for my kids in grade school, and I thought there is no way that any of them get this. (And yet, it made sense to me in my youth.) I did explain vinyl records to my kids in my best Abe Simpson voice.

  4. says

    Kodak went into Ch. 11 but still exists, in the digital imaging business, but as a much reduced enterprise. Same with Fuji. Polaroid is out of business though. The organization I used to work for in the last century bought up some of their office furniture cheap. Just a reminder that technological change has winners and losers.

  5. hemidactylus says

    Who recalls microfilm/fiche or V-mail? The latter pre-dates me by quite a few years:

    I do remember as a kid using those cheap cameras with mass manufactured film cartridges and taking them to, of all places, the drugstore for development. I never really got into photography for its own sake. I had a good friend who did and had a B&W public bathroom phase replete with urinals and tile floors. He parlayed his art school experience into an IT career given his familiarity with computers and stuff that he picked up during his specialized education. So T and A combine in STEAM? Oh that came out wrong in retrospect. Not my intention.

    I just take pictures sometimes. One of my faves is a pic of my cat where a baby palmetto bug had gotten inside the camera and appears to be a giant facing off against my cat. Another is an unintended glitch that looked like flames interposed with my dog in a surreal manner. Both entirely accidental.

    I still have some old negatives that were often provided by the drugstore along with the photos.

  6. microraptor says

    How about the fact that the “save” icon for computer programs is still a floppy disk? When was the last time you saw a computer that even had a floppy drive?

  7. PaulBC says

    microraptor@8 Great example. But I think this is becoming less common. I sort of doubt it will continue to be the case a decade or more from now (or maybe it is silly to speculate about “icons” since I have no idea what UIs will look like in ten years). I remember getting rather peeved at the use of an hourglass to show a process was waiting. I mean, there were already stopwatch graphics, why go back to an archaism like that? (But an icon works if people recognize it, and I have ceased caring too much.)

  8. hemidactylus says

    @8- microraptor
    Before USB drives became prevalent floppies weren’t even floppy. I happened across some largish (8”?) floppies in a garbage pail some years ago. Good luck extracting information from those dinosaur eggs.

  9. Paul K says

    Film is actually having a bit of a comeback. Film photography is hip and retro now. Kodak has brought back some discontinued emulsions, mostly because film makers (cinema) have asked for it, and since miles of film are made for them, selling it to the much reduced home buyers is sensible. It will never get as popular as it once was (and shouldn’t), but, like the pencil, I don’t think it will go away.

    As a hobby, I repaired old Graflex press cameras for about 20 years. I stopped because, in my experience, the market got saturated. No one wanted to pay me anymore for the time and work I put in when they could find other camera already out there, some refurbished by me.

    To me, 35mm film makes sense only for personal esthetic reasons; digital is just easier and more versatile. But in larger formats, film can still do amazing things that would be prohibitively expensive for digital sensors. There’s plenty of B&W film being made for large format, and ultra-large format (larger than 8×10) cameras. Heck, folks are making their own emulsions.

  10. jenorafeuer says

    Oh, I remember microfiche. I’ve had to do microfiche trawling searches to find old documents. Some of that within the last ten years as well, as things like the social pages of 19th century newspapers haven’t been computerized much yet. (We were tracking down the dates of when one of my ancestors left the town of Port Perry to head west.)

    As for cheap cameras… when I was a child, I think based on instructions from National Geographic’s ‘World’ magazine for children, I built a pinhole camera out of a <a href=""126 film cartridge, a small cardboard box, and some black electrical tape. Tape the box to the cartridge, wind the film forward manually, open up the cover over the pinhole, hold it there for a few seconds, and then close the flap and advance the film again. It was interesting just how much photography you could get done with something that simple.

    Sadly, the 126 film cartridges were one of the earlier ones to disappear from popular use in my lifetime, and apparently are no longer being produced at all. (The 110 cartridges stayed around for several years, largely due to the popularity of the Pocket Instamatic, and are apparently still in production in small quantities.)

  11. ionopachys says

    @6 cervantes
    Polaroid isn’t out of business, though it’s probably just a brand made by a bigger corporation now. Somebody is making and selling new models at grossly inflated prices (to my mind). You can even buy film that is supposed to work with cameras going back to the eighties.

  12. PaulBC says


    The 110 cartridges stayed around for several years

    Now I suddenly recall a conversation in 1999 or maybe a little later with a friend 10 years younger than me who had just received a digital camera as a birthday present. We were talking about film cameras and I said (roughly) “Oh, I never got into photography. I only ever had a camera that took 110 cartridges.” She had never heard of 110, though she had used 35mm. It’s as if I had been talking about 8-track tapes (which she had heard of).

    So I think there was probably a short period when the popular cartridges had been phased out (had 35mm become easier to use?) and the world had not yet gone digital.

    One conversation, one data point. So I may be overgeneralizing.

  13. monkeysea says

    Floppy micro fish might infiltrate my orifices when swimming in free-range water.
    Twenty years ago, my 10-year-old had her friends here & one of ’em wanted to use The Phone. “It’s hanging on the wall in the garage, go out there” i said. Dial phone.
    As i’d hoped, the kid came back in right away “uh…how do I use that thing?”
    “You figure it out!”
    He figured it out.
    In the funnies in 1968, a Beatnik spider named Bug Rogers gets the dog to use the dictionary to look up the word “ecology”. The dictionary illustration has some nice detail. I still have my collection of dictionaries. They flatten wrinkled things.

  14. billseymour says

    I have a Nikon that can store up to five photos on a 5-1/4 inch floppy. 8-)

    I also once had a really good camera (a Pentax IIRC) that used 120 film, the next step up from 35mm.  I thought I wanted to be a photographer.  Too bad I was never any good at it.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    I think the Laundry still is using microfiche (Charles Stross fans will get it).
    And The Folly also use non-digital storage, for reasons obvious for “Rivers of London ” fans.

    Midsomer Murders had a whole episode where the artistic conflict between film fundamentalists and digitalists took a deadly turn…. I think that was two decades ago.

  16. jenorafeuer says

    No, you’re not overgeneralizing, that’s pretty much what happened.

    In the 60s and early 70s, you pretty much had 35mm for ‘serious’ photographers and 126 cartridges for the people who wanted ‘idiot cameras’ that did everything automatically. (At least, ‘idiot camera’ is what my grandmother called them. It’s also what she used.)

    By the mid-70s, the 110 cartridges were taking over the ‘idiot camera’ market, making 126 more upscale and slowly squeezing it out in the middle.

    By the time you were well into the 80s, there were enough 35mm idiot cameras (usually switchable between automatic and manual modes, so even cheap ones could be used by anybody) and even 35mm single-use disposable cameras that the cartridges started falling out of favour entirely. There were still a few alternate formats, but it was mostly 35mm then.

    Digital cameras really didn’t come out until the 90s, and while they were expensive toys to start with, the resolution meant they didn’t compete much on the professional market at first, but they did pretty much kill off anything but the cheapest of the cartridge cameras right away, so that was the final nail for the by then mostly-dead 126 format. It then took a few years for them to get cheap enough to kill off the 110 as well, and rather longer to get good enough to get into the high end markets.

    So there were a few years in there, mostly in the late 80s/early 90s, where it was difficult to buy new cameras that took cartridges (you could still buy the cartridges themselves for existing cameras) but digital cameras hadn’t yet become a significant share of the market.

  17. birgerjohansson says

    Photograpers of some astronomic objects like nebulae still like some versions of Kodak film, because they have found a way to tease out details of nebulae that require many different exposure settings.

  18. PaulBC says

    jenorafeuer@19 Thanks! That fits my recollection. I had a 110 camera when I started college in the early 80s. I never really moved onto anything else, but only used that for special occasions and trips. Actually someone in my family gave me a hand-me-down Ricoh that seemed pretty nice, but I would have needed to spend more money for a lens. I hope it found a happy owner. I just don’t remember anymore.

  19. raven says

    I do remember as a kid using those cheap cameras with mass manufactured film cartridges and taking them to, of all places, the drugstore for development.

    I’ve got a disposable Kodak film camera at home. That I bought a few months ago.

    I buy one or so a year, take pictures of my cats and whatever, and take it into the local big box store for development.
    Cameras and I don’t get along for some reason. They never last too long when I’ve had them. Might be because I take them outdoors a lot.

  20. Snarki, child of Loki says

    “I happened across some largish (8”?) floppies in a garbage pail some years ago. Good luck extracting information from those dinosaur eggs.”

    The bits are large enough that you can read them out by covering them with thin white plastic and sprinkling iron filings on them, then photograph the result.

    Future digital archaeologists, take note.

  21. bcw bcw says

    One thing to keep in mind is Kodak built the first usable digital cameras but because Kodak was essentially a chemical coatings business not an electronic business their management killed it. BTW, in college one of my jobs was to clean the disk pack heads with a swap and alcohol every month. When I started work 35 years ago, I kept a big poster of the brand new disk system that reduced a whole wall of disk drive racks to one single 5 foot x 2 foot rack -holding an impressive 90GB. You can get that on a flash memory stick now.

  22. R. L. Foster says

    A few years ago I caught the genealogy bug and wanted to know where my White ancestors came from. I would order microfilm from the local LDS Family History center, pay a few bucks for a roll, and when it arrived I’d spend hours on a Saturday hand cranking the film looking for that nugget of info that would tie the puzzle pieces together. You can’t do that anymore. Nobody is making that kind of film today and if they are it’s ridiculously expensive. To their credit the Mormons have been digitizing their collections and making much of it available for free online. I am not at all nostalgic about the death of the old tech. Sitting at home at my computer is a much more efficient way to do this kind of research.

  23. mrquotidian says

    I remember some automatic film cameras would actually unwind the whole spool of film right when you loaded it, so as you took your photos the exposed film would be rolled back into the canister (the opposite of how most film cameras operated).. The advantage being, if you accidently opened the camera, at least some of the photos would theoretically already be safely wound up in the light-tight cartridge.

  24. chuckonpiggott says

    @10 hemidactylus I found an old 8” floppy in some stuff a few years ago. I think it was for a Xerox disc writer system. Took it to work, very few had any idea what it was. Looked on eBay and found some disc readers for sale out there. An older IT guy guessed maybe one document could be saved on each disc.
    I have also been exposed to the old IBM MT ST typewriter in college and the IBM mag card typewriter in an early job. I’m old.

  25. stroppy says

    Not long ago I noticed that Walgreens was cleaning out its stock of 35 mm film, a bunch of which I bought. Their idea of developing though, is to process the negatives, scan them to jpeg and print them, throwing the negs out. And crappy looking they were too. If you’re looking to develop color film and don’t do it your$elf, you’ll likely end up mailing your negatives to a specialty shop. Of course you can always process color film as black and white…

    BTW, Fuji is still in the game, and seems to be doing well enough in both film and digital. Just got some adverts for film and cameras from Moment

    Given the price of “Medium” format digital cameras, film still makes some sense (unless you’re buying a Hasselblad). If you have a mindset for slow photography, you can probably squeeze higher resolution and better photos out of medium and large format film anyway. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think digital (or even silver printouts from film) can touch large format contact prints on platinum or carbon.

    I hear x-ray film is plentiful and a cheap alternative film source for 8×10.

    Good luck with Polaroid, though. Looks like Polaroid equipment and film for large format cameras are on the way out.

  26. billseymour says

    R. L. Foster @26:

    I am not at all nostalgic about the death of the old tech. Sitting at home at my computer is a much more efficient way to do this kind of research.

    Or to do almost anything at all.  Yes.

    I’m not at all “nostalgic” about older tech.  For example, I certainly do not think that we should have steam-powered factories with all those belts, gears and pulleys in the ceiling; but I still adore really big steam engines because you can see how they work.  They still have beauty, just not function that we could have for less expense.

  27. birgerjohansson says

    Totally OT:
    Dominion Voting Systems is suing Fox News for 1,6 biĺlion dollars.
    So even if I get run over by a steamroller tomorrow, this will still have been a good week.

  28. hemidactylus says

    @31- birgerjohansson

    Good news indeed! But could Fox use the “No reasonable person would take us seriously.” defense?

  29. birgerjohansson says

    OT again.
    Goddammit, I forgot. March 25th is the day Sauron fell.
    If T***p had suffered another legal setback, or just stubbed his toe yesterday, it would have been perfect.

  30. birgerjohansson says

    Hemidactylus @ 32
    Yes, but Fox and reasonable are two words that rarely occur in the same sentence.
    Considering how Dominion is a big company able to hire a big team of the best lawyers, I do not see Faux weaseling their way out of responsibility with some bullshit defence. Even if many of the judges are conservative, they are mostly pro-big business and will take a dim view of defendants who make claims that reduce the business of another company. Who would have thunk conservative judges could be a problem for Fox? (shadenfreude orgasm)

  31. hemidactylus says

    I got my 1st Moderna shot yesterday. Though tired and loopier than usual with a weird feeling shoulder my week is great! 27 days to go for #2.

  32. PaulBC says

    billseymour@30 My nostalgia for old technology doesn’t mean I actually want it back. That’s what makes it nostalgia and not a practical suggestion.

    Speaking of steam engines, have you been to the Deutsches Museum in Munich? I was there about 25 years ago and really bowled over by their collection of steam engines and steam turbines. They weren’t operating but they were pretty incredible nonetheless. I can’t think of an American museum with a collection of machines like this. There’s the Air & Space museum, but I can’t think of one with steam engines. (Correct me if I’m wrong because I might be.)

  33. outis says

    Oh ho, I both resent and resemble that.
    I started doing strictly amateur B&W around 1980 and, well, maybe I lack imagination but I never stopped. Film, paper and chemicals are still around, but getting them from stores is of course getting difficult, so online it is (more expensive alas).
    @17, billseymour: was that a Pentax 6×7 or 645? My 6×7 is still going and I am printing stuff right now. If you still have it, it’s never too late…

  34. billseymour says

    PaulBC @ 36:  nope, I’ve never been to Munich.  (And I’ve heard that the Hofbräuhaus is just a tourist trap.)

    The last time I was in London (at least five years ago, maybe more), the Science Museum had a big steam engine with an electric motor turning it so you could see how it worked.

    There are still quite a few railroad steam engines around, including a 4-10-10-4 “Big Boy”, 4014.  Here’s a photo of UP’s 844 rolling past Lenox Tower not far from where I live.  (You can tell by the car next to the tower that that was taken quite a while ago.)

  35. cvoinescu says

    It’s not actually a complete disaster. Any pictures already taken are ruined, sure, but almost all the unexposed film is still safely in the cartridge. Only the first photo she takes after closing the camera, and less than half of the next one, will be ruined. The third exposure will be fine. (If the camera does not have motorized film transport and she hasn’t pulled the lever/turned the wheel yet, then only half of the next image she takes will be ruined; the second one will be all right.)

  36. StonedRanger says

    Ummm PZ, if youre dating yourself, lets all hope your wife doesnt find out. BDUM TISSSSS.

  37. whheydt says

    Re: bcw bcw @ #24…
    You can get that–and more–on a microSD card these days.

  38. whheydt says

    Re: PaulBC @ #36…
    California State Railway Mueseum in Sacramento has several steam locomotives, including (IIRC) a 4-8-8-4 Cab-forward Mallet.

    The reason for the cab-forward design is that they were used to cross the Sierras and if the crew was behind the boiler, they tended to get more than slightly cooked when going through tunnels and snow sheds.

  39. harryblack says

    I have never understood and still dont understand photography buffs (but I love that you love what you love).
    So…despite first seeing this cartoon some 25 years ago….I JUST got it. I thought I got it before. But now I actually get it!
    So…my niece has not got a hope! But I dont get her jokes either so…

  40. birgerjohansson says

    Hooray! Joe Biden is willing to do something about the filibuster, and do BIG infrastructure package!
    A year ago, I was pretty certain USA under Biden would just be the same old BS.

  41. says

    As a Warren, I plan on someday getting my picture taken with Gary Larson under more or less exactly these circumstances. Seriously, if you look through his complete works, you’ll find him taking my name, over and over again.

  42. chuckonpiggott says

    @30 bill Seymour. At Hagley Museum in Wilmington, birthplace of DuPont company, they have a working machine shop from the late 1800s. Powered by water wheel, all shafts, pulleys and belts. Amazing and really very modern looking. Also have a working gunpowder mill along the banks of the Brandywine.

  43. PaulBC says

    @47 I don’t get back east very much, but that sounds worth the trip and less than a hour from where I grew up in Pennsylvania. I will have to keep it in mind. There are a lot of little museums I missed out on growing up. I really enjoyed the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works Museum in Doylestown, PA, though it may not be of interest to those looking for machines.

  44. Kagehi says

    lol I still have a camera, I think, floating around that came out in the later, “Cheap, crap, digitals are almost here.”, which I suppose you would call a “disc camera”. Except, “disc” in this case was a flat cartridge, with film in it, which worked a bit like a reverse View Master – i.e., you put in the “disc” to take pictures, and got back, as your negatives, something that looked a bit like a View Master thing, with a plastic center, and none of the edges around it.

    I have no idea if they ever made any other cameras like it, and it was probably one of those things, like the “in between” tape formats that some guy was talking about on his Youtube channel, when describing how we eventually ended up with cassette tapes – which could have just as easily ended up being a mini-reel-to-reel thing, or a slightly larger “cassete”, made by some group in Europe. What we got we got because the two companies working to make it all work agreed to a deal in which… which ever one made the player didn’t have to play royalties on any of the cassettes, nor did anyone else using the format, otherwise the “player maker” was going to go with the “cheaper” cassette made by this other company. Apparently the irony of the whole thing is that even with the player, the various technologies involved, from the film, to the reel designs, to the idea of having it in a cartridge, etc. where all “already out there”, so the makers of the player technology for the things where literally only able to patent the head assembly – which, unlike all previous versions, “moved mechanically into place, against the film, to begin play back.” lol

    But, yeah… I have no freaking idea what they where thinking when they came up with the silly “disc camera” design, other than it made it slimmer, and a different shape, or something, so yeah…

  45. PaulBC says

    Kagehi@49 I could be wrong, but I think the idea was that the disk could move to the next exposure faster than a roll of film. I remember that those existed but I never had one. I am pretty sure my friend who did not know about 110 cartridges knew about disk format, but that may be a confabulation. Here’s a wikipedia page.

  46. Kagehi says

    Hmm. Yep, that would be it. And, the page itself mentions that the resulting images where often “sharper”, do to the film being more rigid, and less “bendy”. Otherwise.. its still one of those, “Yeah, OK.. This might have been great, if like 5 minutes later someone hadn’t come up with something that would replace the technology almost literally over night.” lol

  47. outis says

    Kagehi@49: yes, I still have one of those, useless since the film format has fallen into well-deserved oblivion. As the Wiki article shows, image quality was pretty terrible, and I got very little use out of it.
    I wonder if the idea was to make loading and unloading the camera easier, as this seemed to be a point that flatout terrified manufacturers: oh my, people won’t buy cameras because loading film is so commmmplicated…