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Subject:  Re: OT: Man in the White Suit Date:  2/16/2009  8:07 AM
Author:  Goofyhoofy Number:  25981 of 36398

I remember trying to explain digital cameras to my late father-in-law, who couldn't understand how anyone would make money (this was before the craze among teens and preens sending self-porno over cell phones). My answer was, and is, once people decide they don't need a hard copy, there will be little money to be made once the camera is bought.

Ah, but that's because you were following the same logic you posted earlier, that things don't keep expanding. "Faith based", I think you called it.

So here's what really happened. People stopped using traditional cameras and started using digital ones. That meant manufacture of a new kind of camera, which meant everybody needed to replace their cameras, not just those that got dropped or broken. The meant a huge new market instead of just "a replacement market." It also meant new kinds of memory: sticks, cards, internal chips. It meant more emphasis on miniaturization, which employed engineers and designers all over the world. And, obviously, it meant the construction of new plants to manufacture and assemble the cameras, new plants to produce and ship the chips, and gave business to shipping companies and exporters and importers far in excess of what "the replacement SLR market" would have been.

But wait! As the TV commercial says, there's more! As Mark has pointed out, it spawned entirely new lines of inkjet printers, which would be unnecessary if we were only printing out black and white text. It means sales of color inkjet cartridges, and now whole businesses which do nothing but refill inkjet cartridges. Paper mills had to invent new kinds of paper which consumers can use to print their photos, and office supply stores have a new product on their shelves which existed only for a select few (professional or serious amateur photographers) previously.

But wait! There's more! The "manipulating photo business" exploded, so now there are Silicon Valley corporations which produce software so regular people like you and me can alter our pictures. Photoshop and imitators, for instance. Previously this art was limited to a paltry few gurus with airbrushes and erasers, it's now a billion dollar industry.

Think I'm done? Not by a long shot. The number of "cameras" is a jillion times higher than before. Where a household might have had one or two, now it probably has a half dozen. Some are "cameras", and some are "cellphones with cameras" and some are "computers with cameras" and some are "security systems with cameras" and so on. Every time somebody sends one of those pictures somewhere, there's a bandwidth charge that your cable company or telephone company is getting or paying, one which never existed before. Every picture that goes to Facebook makes money for somebody. Want to send it wirelessly to your friends via your cellphone? There's a "air" charge, and Verizon makes better use of their cell towers and has more money to build even more cell towers.

Now think of all the things that digital cameras can do that film based cameras cannot. We'd have a lot fewer weather satellite pictures if we were still relying on "film drop" as the first few satellites used. We wouldn't have Hubble. Any deep-space missions? Non-existent. Maybe they would have found a way to do film pictures of your GI tract before an operation, or your sewer pipes when there's a break, but it sure would have been messier. Very tough to get a camera with film down there in the first place, so those options might not even have existed!

Well, there's lots more, but I've already gone on far too long. If you me to say that the advent of the digital camera was particularly bad for one celluloid based company in Rochester NY or the Nikon Corporation, I'm happy to. OTOH, the market widened, it didn't narrow, as a new technology came along and replaced an older one. New jobs, more economic activity, and a new toy for people and for business, all of which added to the growth of the country, inspired new patents, made new millionaires, and gave me the ability to take thousands of vacation pictures instead of dozens.

Oh, and as for that question about "what to do with film"? They still take it at the drugstore. A guy comes around and collects it, develops it overnight and drives it back in the morning. CVS, Walgreens, WalMart, any of them will have this service. You'll be able to find it over by the new stand-up kiosks which allow you to pull the memory stick out of your camera and print out all the digital pictures you want, or make copies of hard copy prints, completely with softwares that let you re-size, get rid of redeye, trim, crop, rotate, and so on.

Those kiosks must be a pretty good business, I see them everywhere, and each one contains a fair amount of plywood, glass, computer processing, printer mechanism, design and maintenance, so I guess there are a few more jobs created by digital cameras just in that 2x2 footprint of floorspace, too. That's all new business not just for Mr. Kiosk owner, but for all the supporting industries which produce the stuff to build the kiosks from.

And to come full circle, that's how there turned out to be lots and lots of money to be made "once people bought the new camera." I'm not, of course, claiming digital photography as the only impetus behind the development of new printers, inkjet cartridges, drug store kiosks, Adobe or the rest, but it certainly had to be a major factor in some of it - and at the end of the day a formerly staid, mature market based in a century old celluloid product exploded into a dynamic new sector which probably accounted and accounts for a far larger economic footprint than "film" ever did.

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