Bullin Through Life: Fotomat and pilgrims

By Buckshot

Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Well, we had the April showers that bring May flowers, an’ you know what May flowers bring… pilgrims! Yeah, I know… Corny, but it still gets a chuckle now an’ then. Speakin’ of pilgrims, do ya ever feel like a stranger in a strange land? I do all the time. Technology has advanced so dramatically over the last couple of decades that I’m amazed, confused, and more often than not, frustrated by it. I was diggin’ through some old snapshots (there’s a term that’ll date me!) lookin’ for a certain chopper I had back when Beatle boots an’ bell bottoms were in style. Lookin’ through those old pictures, with the rounded corners an’ grainy quality, I remembered grabbing my little Kodak Instamatic 110 camera, snapping in a fresh four-sided flash cube, an’ hoping I got everyone’s faces an’ not their feet. A trip to Fotomat (remember those little kiosks that were everywhere back then?) an’ if you were lucky, you could see how blurry your future memories turned out by the next day. If you wanted to wait a week or so, Thrifty Drugs would make doubles at no extra charge, so you had two blurry copies of everyone’s feet. I still have a lot of pics from back then of the kids, bikes, cars, friends, an’ pets, but it was expensive to have film developed when you were makin’ two bucks an hour pumpin’ gas an’ washin’ windshields. (Yeah, we actually did that, an’ checked the oil an’ tires, too!)

I remember when the Polaroid Swinger came out, around 1966 or ’67. My parents got me one for Christmas, an’ I recorded my first actual road trip with it. Me an’ the Potter Brothers, Terry an’ Dennis, jumped in my ’55 Studebaker an’ headed for Pismo Beach, an’ ended up with mostly bikini pics. You had to smear a coating on the pictures or they’d fade out in no time, but that little camera was cool, because it almost single-handedly killed Fotomat.

I remember my first good camera. It was an Argus C-3 that had belonged to my grandpa. It took color slides, but I didn’t use it much because, again, the expense of the processing, plus, I didn’t have a good viewer, just a little handheld thing with a light an’ screen to magnify the slides.

A few years ago, I ventured into the realm of the 35 millimeter SLR cameras, and by that time, I could have the film developed without goin’ hungry. The quality was a lot better, so I took a lot more pictures.

A while back, Reggie bought me a beautiful Pentax K20D digital SLR camera to film my adventures and tech articles. It has so many bells an’ whistles that I’ll never be able to ring an’ blow ’em all. It’s an intimidating piece of technology, an’ it will probably take me a long time to get proficient with it. I thought about takin’ a class, but I hate to look like an idiot in front of all the kids who pick this high-tech stuff up like a sponge. Most of the time, I use my smartphone camera unless it’s an important shoot, because the cameras in those damn things are amazing, an’ don’t get me started on smartphones; all I can do with mine is make calls an’ take pictures. Even the GPS app confuses me.

Before I got my first computer, I couldn’t fathom what use I could possibly have for one, or what they could do. It was the infancy of computers. The monitor looked like a TV set an’ weighed 50 pounds, an’ the printer used paper that was folded into a box an’ had holes poked along both sides that you had to tear off. I saw the little plastic “floppy” discs, and asked my son Kevin, who’s a former systems engineer, why not just print the stuff? Well, after he showed me what the computer could do, and convinced me that I couldn’t live without one, he built me one that fit my abilities perfectly. It was a board with 10 holes to stick your fingers through as you’re counting. Funny, kid! Then he built me a real one. Now, years later, computers have gotten incredibly smaller, lighter, and even built into phones that have more power than the huge computers that put men on the moon, and I’m still amazed, confused, an’ frustrated…

I look at the new Harleys with their fuel injection, drive-by-wire throttle, anti-lock brakes, theft deterrents, and onboard computers that control everything, and long for the good ol’ days when you could tune one up without a laptop computer programmed for that application. If it quit on the side of the road, there were only a few things it could be, and outside of a catastrophic failure, you could usually get it going again with whatever tools you carried in your tool pouch. I bought a new Softail Standard in 2003, in part because it was still carbureted, and I can work on it without a master’s degree in electrical gobbledygook, and guess what? The damn thing still runs like a scalded cat, so I guess I’ll go grab my Instamatic, pop in a fresh flash cube, an’ take a few pictures of it. Anyone know where Fotomat moved to?

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