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Chuh-Click. Sunset.

With the Last of Kodak's Slide Projectors, a Family Tradition Slips Out of Focus

By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 25, 2004; Page C01

The last of the Eastman Kodak slide projectors was manufactured in Upstate New York in October, and then no more, the company has announced, after nearly seven decades and 35 million projectors sold.

Next slide, please.

(Chuh-click-click.)

Oh yes, the party. According to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper, the remaining employees of the slide-projector division, along with some Kodak brass, gathered last Thursday night at a special farewell party in the George Eastman House in Rochester, and nice things were said about the venerable slide projector, and the Smithsonian Institution was given a few Carousels and Ektapros to keep for posterity, to remind us who we were, and how many slide shows we've sat through, in how many basements and classrooms and board (bored?) rooms.

(Chuh-click-click.)

A documentary filmmaker was there, too, from the Art Institute of Chicago, and she has been busily working on a movie about the history of slide projectors. If she does it right, the movie should be wonderfully boring and vividly colored and meanderingly, redundantly narrated, and the audience will be invited to periodically shout "Focus!" It should be five hours long, and shown only after pie. Halfway through, it should stop, and the audience will entertain themselves with shadow puppets while the projectionist softly curses and his co-projectionist (also his wife) insists the slides are in backward.

Lights out. There was always that curiously intimate sensation of demi-privacy in the crowded family room, when your father or uncle or neighbor flipped off the light switch in the den and we were all sitting there, aware and unaware of one another in the dark. "Let's see," he'd say, and lo, that blank frame of white light appeared on the screen or the wall.

In the beginning there was the universe and it was nothing but white light, and rounded at the edges of the frame.

(Chuh-click-click.)

Then we went to Pikes Peak, in 1981.

(Chuh-click-click.)

I mean, look at the aspen. They really were that color. Like nothing you've ever seen.

(Chuh-click-click.)

Then we evolved even further, a civilized people, who had all these slides that we never looked at, not really, not after the first time.


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