Kodachrome has gone the way of the dodo. It has starred extinction in the face and blinked. It's gone. Kodak announced today that no more rolls of this excellent film will be made. Killed off not by the economic down turn but by the digital image. Well that's not exactly true, the millions and millions of images taken with Kodachrome and all other film makes and types will last much longer than the images stored on most hard drives.
I’ve always had a camera starting with a Box Brownie an aunt gave me when I was about 7. So why are there so few photos of me taken between 1950 and 2000. I bet if I went through the various photo albums belonging to family members there wouldn’t be more than 15 photos of me and so few holiday shots. I’m sure I went on more than 3 holidays in 50 years. Many have become lost, you would take a roll of film, which cost money to buy and to process, so due economy would be exercised in the pressing of the shutter. So much economy that a roll of 36 would usual start with summer holiday snaps and end with a Christmas party. Sometimes not even in the same year. But the roll would be taken to the chemist and the photos collected a week later, the photos looked at, disappointment expressed at least half the photos and the rest put to one side to be put in an album later. Sometimes later never came and photos which had been sitting in a camera for months or even years would be looked at once and end up in a cardboard box under the bed.
Now the photos end up on a hard drive in a computer or a mobile phone. They get emailed round the world in seconds, appear on sites like Flicker and Picasa and in Blogs, sent to the local paper or the BBC. Some even get printed, on paper. But billions get taken, terabytes of zeros and ones sitting on the hard drives of the worlds computes waiting for the click that will bring them on to the screen to be admired or deleted. How long will they last on the hard drive compared with Kodachrome and all the other films we knew and loved back in the bad old days? Actually the question isn’t how long will they last on the hard drive but how long will your hard drive last. Backup your photos now, on write once CDs or DVDs. How long will these backed up images last? Well the truth is we don’t know. I have photos taken in 2004 and copied to CD so they are 5 years old and were looked at a few weeks ago and are indistinguishable from the copy I have on the hard drive on this computer. I have a photograph taken in 1890 of my grandparents and it shows no sign of deterioration yet. Who knows how long it will last. Longer than Kodachrome anyway.
PS. If you have any photos on your hard drive that aren’t copied somewhere else then don’t go to work tomorrow. Spend the day backing them all up, on CDs, DVDs, memory card, or even email them to yourself. ( That last method is free).