Then And Now: Zombie Gadget Brands
By James Grahame
Here's a look at some of companies that enjoyed massive success but eventually faltered, only to be brought back from the dead as "Zombie Brands..."
Polaroid: Edwin Land's company got its start selling polarized sunglasses in 1948 before moving into the instant camera market. They competed head-to-head with Kodak for many years but eventually faltered after the dubious introduction of Polavision, an ill-fated instant movie system that cost the company millions. They failed to make the jump to digital and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001. The Polaroid name now appears on a variety of products including TVs and digital cameras.
Bell & Howell: There was once a time when nearly every school in North America had an A/V room filled with B&H 16mm projectors. The company's 16mm Filmo movie camera was renowned for its rugged simplicity and their 8mm cameras were tremendously popular with amateurs. Alas, they didn't survive the transition to video and the company produced its last motion picture camera in the late 1970s. These days, the B&H name is licensed to companies producing digital cameras, noise reduction headphones and even floor lamps.
Commodore computers seemed to be everywhere in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From modest beginnings with the KIM-1 board, they had a string of hits with the PET 2001, VIC-20, C-64 and the Amiga. Alas, they also had more than their fair share of flops. There have been several attempts to revive the Commodore brand in the years since its bankruptcy in 1994, most of them centering around the Amiga. The name was eventually sold in 2004 for a reported € 22-million and Commodore Gaming unveiled a line of expensive looking Commodore XX PCs.
AgfaPhoto: The oldest Zombie on the list, originally founded in 1867. The company was famous for the development of the Agfacolor film in the 1920s and the rollout of Agfacolor-Neu color reversal film in 1937 (intended to compete with Kodachrome). They filed for insolvency in early 2005 and the AgfaPhoto name is now licensed to companies such as Sagem, Plawa and the unfortunately named Lupus.
I can hardly wait to see which of today's high-flying brands will go on to become tomorrow's zombies.