The golden years

Matthew Reeves thinks that Kodak would be better off making anti-ageing products than inkjet printers

It must be hard being old. Having no purpose in life any more apart from sitting down and watching other people go by. Imparting some wisdom here and there, but mainly just acting as a rare artefact, a wobbly but charming Museum of Very Recent Local History attendant babbling to each tour group of dutiful relatives about days of yore and what meal they didn't like at a restaurant because the beef wasn't cremated like a cruel foreshadowing of what awaits them - and us all.

They do go out and amuse themselves but, as I keep telling my grandparents, this isn't the time, at their age, to fecklessly peruse countless National Trust tea rooms or swan off in the back of taxis, selfishly plucking out their hearing aids. "You've worked hard all your life, Grandad", I've repeatedly said "but this isn't the time to piss away my inheritance". They never listen.

They have an absolutely beautifully living room, with a green sofa with wooden lions' paws for legs and green cushions with tassels on. It's stunning, in a 1970s Shropshire Bauhaus kind of way. Where better a place to sink a glass of sherry and soak up a springtime chorus of GoCompare adverts.

People find gift buying for grandparents difficult, but all you have to do is pay attention during visiting hours. Listen to what they say, and think of something to keep them in the house and off the debit card. The visiting routine, by the way, is this: go in, sit down, get asked how you are enjoying university (graduated two years ago), tell them it WAS good, remind them what course I did, get told my cousin wants to be a doctor (is in fact in their final year of dentistry), then get shown a collection of photos which have been up for at least eight years. Get shown photos of myself, complete with a description of myself and what I wasn't studying two years ago.

My latest birthday present for them was a digital photo frame. Think about it? An endless stream of better times, continuously looping? I thought the old dears would be glued to it like it possessed some sort of black magic. They hated it. Within minutes it was in the terrible gift drawer. Before long, it was hidden under a pile of unread books about RAF squadrons my grandad was never in, in a war that ended before he was old enough to tie his shoelaces.

Apparently, even though the old chap is well old, he actually knows how to hand develop film, and the quality of the frame's horrible little screen drove him insane. He found it distracting, and grumbled that the act of getting the best memories printed would be devalued by having 40 of them (and it can hold a lot more) on a constant loop. I hope, then, that he's thrilled by Kodak's decision to ditch digital photoframes - along with cameras and film. It's great to see a company shedding its deadwood. Kodak's only problem is that they're trading theirs in for some magic beans. They want to hedge their bets on inkjet printers.

If we see Kodak in the light of the philosophy of retired ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky - "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been" - the company certainly isn't skating. Kodak are slopping about, sock deep in cold water, and they haven't even rented their skates yet. Inkjet printers are the sexism of the home office. Nobody likes the idea, everyone knows they're not going to last long but we just have to play the game and put up with it until everyone's grown out of it.

Inkjet printers stand - and fall - for so much more than the convenience and ability of each home to produce their own documents. Inkjet printers are the last bastion, the lone piper tooting the Last Post. They triumphantly signal that, even in a world where we get so many WiFi connections we turn off our iPhones, there's still a vast gulf between our own abilities in the home office department, and those of Snappy Snaps. Inkjet printers are like old people. They represent the haunting realisation that we're all just waiting for time to pass, dressed up as a means to express our past. Inkjet printers are a symbol for our inability to achieve our dreams and reach the perfection we crave. Kodak would do better making anti-ageing products.