I was teaching a class the other day when I mentioned to them that one of my first jobs was at a Fotomat booth.
Explaining that it was a little shack in the middle of a shopping center parking lot where people could conveniently drop off their film only lead to more questions.
“What’s film?” “Why didn’t they just download them to a flash drive and then print them?”
OK, I admit – having a camera that doubles as a telephone is definitely better than the square Kodak cameras and the 110s. I really don’t miss looking for a flash cube or burning my fingers while removing one. Staring at film cartridges and wondering what was on them then having to wait several days to find out.
Then Polaroid solved the problem – or so we thought. First they had sort of a weird process where the picture would eject from the camera and you had to wait a few minutes and then peel off this plastic paper and then you had a picture – without visiting Fotomat. Later they came out with a better process where you could actually watch the picture develop before your very eyes.
Somehow Fotomat endured right up until the age of digital cameras. But when they existed the only question people asked about Fotomat was, “is there a bathroom in there?”