Polaroid introduces the instant camera, February 21, 1947

-February 21, 2017

Polaroid founder Edwin Land first demonstrated the instant camera on February 21, 1947 at a meeting of the Optical Society of America in New York City.

The Land camera, as it was originally known, contained a roll of positive paper with a pod of developing chemicals at the top of each frame. Turning a knob forced the exposed negative and paper through rollers, which spread the reagents evenly between the two layers and pushed it out of the camera. A paper cutter trimmed the paper and after a minute the layers could be peeled apart to reveal the black-and-white photo.



By 1948 the 4 lb. Polaroid Land Camera Model 95 was on sale at the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston for $89.75. It made more than $5 million in sales in the first year, and would be the prototype for Polaroid cameras for the next 15 years. The 1963 introduction of Polacolor film enabled the cameras to produce color pictures.



Edwin Land was a prolific inventor known for his obsessive work habits who would later serve as an inspiration for Apple's Steve Jobs (see "What Steve Jobs Learned from Edwin Land of Polaroid").

He began experimenting with polarizing light after studying chemistry at Harvard for a year and invented the plastic sheet-light polarizer in 1929. He then co-founded Land-Wheelwright Laboratories in 1932, which became the Polaroid Corporation five years later.

Over time, digital photography and printing lessened the appeal of instant cameras. In 2008, Polaroid announced it would stop making instant cameras, but it now sells digital cameras that print color photos, digital high-definition camcorders, and waterproof digital cameras.

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For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted on February 21, 2013 and edited on February 21, 2017.


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