Archive for February, 2013


Posted in Pai-Book-Review on February 25, 2013 by prajwalpai

InstantThe first thing that came to my mind when I read this book was “History Repeats”. I had heard of Polaroid but all I knew of it was the Polaroid Instant  Camera, the one where you click and it spits out an instant image. I remember many years back, we had the Polaroid Studio where we used to get instant passport size snaps. I vaguely recall the Polaroid TV Advert, which featured Pankaj Kapoor getting clicked Instantly. I still do see a lot of Polaroid cams in ‘Just for Laugh Gags’.

The Genius Edwin Land :

To be totally honest, I had never heard of Edwin Land till I read this book. But only the first couple of pages should be enough to convince how much of a genius he was. Land’s philosophy was “Do some interesting science that is all your own, and if it is, manifestly important and nearly impossible, it will be fulfilling, and maybe even a way to get rich.” In his lifetime, Land received 535 United States patents. No wonder everyone called this college dropout “Dr. Land”—particularly after Harvard University gave him an honorary doctorate. He advised several presidents (from Eisenhower through Nixon) on technology,and effectively created the u-2 spy plane. Richard Nixon admired his scientific prowess, once asking an aide, “How do we get more Dr. Lands?”. He was a super salesman and he would  make an event out of his new product launches. He would present it in such a way that audience which didn’t know a product’s existence before the launch would wonder how they could live without one. A trend which was later followed by Jobs. In the sixties he has a vision of how photography should be, his vision was to create a device, compact enough to fit in pocket which people could use day in and day out to document their everyday life. His vision some 40 years back is today’s Camera phone.  It’s no wonder Steve Jobs considered Land a personal hero and modeled Apple after Polaroid.

The ‘polarize’ of ‘Polaroid’:

We all have read the polarization effect. A polarizer is a unique type of filter, As Land’s would oversimplify and  explain : Waves of light, as they come at you, vibrate in every plane, vertically, horizontally, and at all angles in between. Certain crystal structures can function as gratings, allowing through light that vibrates in just one plane. If you picture the beam of light as a handful of thrown straws, oriented in every direction, the polarizing filter is a picket fence. The only straws that come through are the ones that align with the slots between pickets. Polaroid became a multimillionaire company by selling polarized sheets.
Can you imagine that 3-d glasses(used even now) and concept was first invented by Edwin Lane!! Simplest application of polarization shoot movie using two cameras with an inch difference in between and project 2 different images to both eyes. The magic here is by the fence we talked about above, we have vertical fence on left eye and horizontal fence on right eye and we can control which eye can see what. That’s it!! Since both eyes see two different images, our brain calculates the depth perception.

The parallels with Apple :

Apple was a recurring theme while reading this book.Both companies started out with something different that what they ended up doing after 20 years from start. Polaroid went from Polarisation sheets to Camera and Apple went from computers to iPod/iPhone. Land was Polaroid as was Jobs used to be Apple. Coincidentally, Edwin was kinda forced to retire/get out of Polaroid like Steve Jobs was let go by Apple board. Like Apple vs Samsung ended in a Patent war , Polaroid was in war with Kodak. It was a 1 billion settlement between these two in 1990 and was the biggest patent-infringement judgment ever. These are kinda the huge similarities but thought-out the book we see a lot of similarities between Apple and Polaroid. I can just say history repeats.

The Before and After :

The biggest similarity between Apple and Polaroid is the vision and audacity of its visionaries. They both believed that a technology didn’t just have to work; it had to be beautiful. Polaroid didn’t go on to become a printer company because at the time, inkjet printers produced coarse, muddy images, and few people at Polaroid believed that photographers would never be happy with anything out of those machines. As one employee put it, The engineering department refused to accept the bad taste of the consumer.

Their exit from their respective companies made a fatal difference to the outlook of the company. Land and Jobs both believed that every significant invention. . .must come to a world that is not prepared for it.
After their exit, both Tim Cook@Apple and Booth@Poloroid asked the world what it wanted, then made it

If you are too lazy to read the entire book, Just watch this 4 min Book Trailer :