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February 03, 2009

The Impossible Project

photo of Polaroid film machine

One of my most prized possessions is an original Polaroid SX-70 camera, IMO one of the greatest technical achievements of the 20th century. But alas, even brilliant design objects like the SX-70 eventually lose their sheen, and decline in popularity. Polaroid stopped making SX-70s in the late 1970s.

Happily however, Polaroid kept making SX-70 film (which also worked in later model Polaroid cameras) for another 30 years, finally ceasing film production in last June.

You would think that would be that...Polaroid aficionados would use up their remaining film stock, and then move on to other things. But you underestimate just HOW SERIOUS a Polaroid obsession can be.

Case in point...a group of Polaroid users has leased a closed SX-70 film manufacturing plant in the Netherlands, hired a team of film chemistry experts from around the world, and set themselves the task of reverse engineering Polaroid film packs and then manufacturing new batches of SX-70 compatible film that matches, or even exceeds, the specs of the original. They are aiming to have the first film packs roll off their assembly line in 2010.

This is such a crazily complex mix of chemistry, mechanical engineering, electronics, assembly and testing that the folks behind the idea chose the most obvious name for their dream, The Impossible Project.

I'll be watching their progress (they have a mailing list), hoping they can do the impossible, and let my beloved SX-70 live again!

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at February 3, 2009 10:26 PM

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