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Monday, January 2, 2012

Polaroid’s SX-70: The Art and Science of the Nearly Impossible

A man, a company, and the most wildly ambitious consumer-electronics device of its era.

By | Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 3:00 am

What makes a gadget great? You might argue that it’s determined at least in part by how many lives the product in question touches. Back in 2005, when I helped choose a list of the fifty greatest gadgets of the past fifty years, we ranked the Sony Walkman as #1 and Apple’s iPod as #2. Fabulous gizmos both; I suspect, however, that they wouldn’t have topped the list if they hadn’t been bestsellers of epic proportions.

But greatness isn’t a popularity contest–not primarily one, at least. Maybe it has more to do with the concept expressed by Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: making technology indistinguishable from magic. By that measure, I can’t think of a greater gadget than the SX-70 Land Camera, the instant camera that Polaroid introduced in April 1972. We ranked the SX-70 eighth on that 2005 list, but the sheer magnitude of its ambition and innovation dwarfs the Walkman, iPod, and nearly every other consumer-electronics product you can name.

Polaroid’s SX-70: The Art and Science of the Nearly Impossible

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