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HASSELBLAD CAMERA SWEDEN

Hasselblad used to be one of the world´s most famous camera producers. It was Walter Schira, who was one of the first astronauts, who made the choice to use a Hasselblad on one of the first space mission. After that, it became NASA´s official camera. Hasselblad´s reputation became immense, as it seemed to have been granted an almost God-given niche in the camera industry.

But at the beginning of the 21st century, something disastrous happened to the legendary camera producer. When I made my visit to the remnants of the offices and factory, it almost seemed as lightning had struck.

In reality, it was the digital revolution taht hit Hasselblad. Seemingly unprepared, the proud producer was exposed to a competition that brought the company to its knees in less than 18 months.

But Hasselblads´s experience is only a small part of a much larger process, Thousands of once famous companies and institutions have been annihilated during he last decades, as microelectronics have revolutionized our entire wnvironment. Industries have been transformed and globalized. Social change have been profound.

Gordon Moore formulated the “law” that was to define the last third of the 20th century in 1965. Working at Fairchild Electronics, he was in the ideal position to notice that a strange development path was evolving in the emergent microelectronics industry: the number of transistors that could be crammed onto an integrated circuit was doubling each year. Simultaneously, the prices for the ever more powerful chips continued to be halved during the same time span. Moore predicted that these developments would continue for another decade. As a result, personal computers, digital watches and portable telecom equipment would be economically feasible by 1975.

Reality proved him right and in 1977 his friend Robert Noyce analyzed the character of the digital revolution: “It has often been said that just as the industrial revolution enabled man to apply and control greater physical power than his muscle could provide, so electronics has extended his intellectual power. Microelectronics extends that power still further”. He predicted that the next decade would see the evolution of digital mail, as well as the digitalization of libraries and the entertainment businesses. He concluded his article with a laconic observation: the real power of the microelectronic revolution lies in its exponential diffusion process.

The rapid growth process lacks historic parallels. Companies that hasn’t changed has collapsed, when cash registers, cameras, newspapers, maps, pneumatic mail, stock certificates and toys have become digital.

Which may be the real essence of Hasselblad´s meeting with destiny.