Boxes of Kodak film are stocked in a camera shop Jan. 15, 2004 in London, England.
Boxes of Kodak film are stocked in a camera shop Jan. 15, 2004 in London, England. - 
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Kai Ryssdal: There's a line to be had here about nobody taking my kodachrome away, but it escapes me at the moment. Kodak, the pioneering photography company, missed earnings estimates by a mile today -- and warned investors it could have trouble staying in business if things don't go its way.

Marketplace's Steve Henn reports.

Steve Henn: The year was 1900, the product was Kodak's brownie camera. For just $1, it brought photography to the masses.

Kodak made a fortune -- not selling cameras, but by selling film. Then in the '70s, when Kodak still dominated this market, its scientists invented digital photography.

Mark Kauffman: It turned the business inside-out; it was a destructive technology.

Especially for Kodak. Mark Kauffman's at Rafferty Capital. He says when cameras no longer needed film, Kodak's core business collapsed.

Ed Lee follows the industry at Infotrends.

Ed Lee: Come the end of the decade, there will be very, very little film being used.

So Kauffman says one of Kodak's most valuable assets are the patents on digital technologies it created.

Kauffman: Between 2008 and 2010, they took in $1.5 billion in patent revenue.

And executives hope by selling rights to that technology will keep the company afloat as it tries to build a new business in digital printing.

In Silicon Valley, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.