Saying goodbye to Polaroid instant film

Every once in a while we say goodbye to a technology that has been replaced by a demonstrably superior replacement, yet we still hold onto a bit of nostalgia for the old way.

Every once in a while we say goodbye to a technology that has been replaced by a demonstrably superior successor, yet we still hold onto a bit of nostagia for the old way. One of those about to go extinct is Polariod instant film. Even though I hadn't used it for years, I was sad to hear on NPR's All Things Considered that the film is going out of production.

Digital photography is our efficient, truly instantaneous modern standard, but there was something magical about a Polaroid picture. Even if the final prints were not as good as standard film, Polaroid had its own mystique.

The whole process had a satisfying, ritualized nature to it. You composed the photo, clicked the shutter and heard that distinctive whirr. The seemingly blank film shot out. You'd fight to see who got to grab it, shake it (for no real reason--it just seemed like it needed to be shaken like a mercury thermometer), and watch as the image teasingly developed before your eyes. The film was expensive; about a dollar a shot if I remember correctly. You'd have to carefully parcel out the ten shots in a pack to make it last through a whole party.

A few artists had clung to the medium for their work. They are mourning the end of the Polaroid era, saying that for some applications, nothing compares to the look they could get from this film.

For me, it is strange to see something that I remember as cutting-edge technology as a kid become so thoroughly obsolete. So while digital photography may be superior in almost every way, let's say one final "click, whirr" farewell to Polariod.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., is the author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family and creator of


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