Loving Martha Stewart
A True Story
No, this is no cabana-boy* exposé. This is an account of an actual meeting in 2006. That it was held in the bowels of a company that was rushing headlong to imaginary status is irrelevant.
In the days before most realized that the Eastman Kodak Company had sown the seeds of its oblivion, Kodak brass approached Martha Stewart about a joint venture. A combined effort between two trusted consumer companies made some sense. The hope was that Martha’s style and home goods would find synergy with Kodak’s technology.
Martha was interested, so a meeting was scheduled at the Kodak Research Labs.
The year before, Martha had finished her prison term for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and false statements related to insider trading. She maintained her innocence, but took her conviction in stride and served 5 months. Her business did not suffer.
She and her people were seated on one side of the meeting table, and the Kodak people were opposite and around the ends. Her lieutenants were all sharp, asking knowledgeable questions, but there was absolutely no question about who was in charge. Martha can be a rather imposing figure.
A small parade of Kodak technologists passed through the meeting room, each demonstrating inventions that might support a joint venture. I was waiting my turn in a back seat while Lou and Tony demonstrated their project.
The enabling machine, originally designed as a high-speed check scanner, had been modified to scan images. At the time, the tedious use of flatbed scanners was the state of the art. This scanner used a sheet feeding mechanism to suck images into the scanning area and shoot them out the other side. Not only was the image quality more than acceptable, but a pile of pictures of different sizes and orientations could also be scanned at a rate of about one per second.
Kodakers hoped that Martha might find an application of the machine in activities like scrapbooking.
Lou and Tony described the machine and what it did and then provided a demonstration. A stack of images was placed in the hopper and the machine sucked and scanned at a furious rate. Images magically appeared on a nearby computer screen.
“Wow!” exclaimed Martha. She turned to one of her lieutenants and said, “I could do that! It’s just like making license plates!”
Self-deprecating humor and a touch of humility! A huge smile appeared on my face.
I love you, Martha Stewart.
*Please ignore any racist or sexist connotations. The term is used only to denote one in a subservient role.