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23 March 2010
NEW YORK CITY, New York -- A group of engineers announced here on Monday that they will start manufacturing and selling film for Polaroid cameras. The market responded with stunned silence, for one good reason.
The market consists of all the people who bought instant cameras in the 1970s without thinking about the consequences of being at the mercy of Polaroid Corporation for film for the rest of their lives; and who, when Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in 2001, didn't chuck the primitive cameras in the trash straight away.
The old Polaroid SX-70 cameras (SX-70 sounding both sexy and futuristic back then) revolutionized photography because users could make prints within minutes of taking pictures, without taking a roll of film to a photo studio and waiting two days to see if the old guy would lose it. Apparently, that generation of photographers never used their new-found freedom to take pictures of anything they might later find embarrassing, such as SX organs. Photo enthusiasts loved the little camera and its fragile film packs partly because, by squeezing the edges while the picture was developing, one could distort the image in entertaining ways, whether one intended to or not.
A pack of eight exposures will sell for $21, precisely at the time when digital cameras have started producing images that are just as good as film. The Polaroid pack will take pictures in any color you like, as long as it's black (or white, or some shade of gray). If you make a mistake, there is no Delete button, and you are instantly out three bucks. Legally, the engineers cannot use the Polaroid brand, so the packages will look like cheap Chinese knock-offs.
The engineering work was dubbed The Impossible Project, quite apart from the impossibility of making any sales, because chemicals necessary for the original formula are no longer available. This probably means that all the original Polaroid users are now environmental criminals and, if the Superfund police find any old prints, they could take your house.