History of the Digital Camera

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If you think about it, a lot of the inventions of the hundred years have been eclipsed by one device; a smartphone. This is the Remember series, a time where we take a look back at some of those inventions and how we got to where we are today. Read the following to “the point and shoot digital camera”. Classic point-and-shoot digital cameras were an integral part of our society for the better part of two decades and most of us remember having a digital camera at some stage. Priceless everlasting moments from the personal lives of many people around the world are all owed to one device.
Before the advent of a digital camera, when you took a photo, you have no way of really knowing if the shot was good or a total mess. Once you’ve taken the shots that you needed, you had to send your images off to a physical photoshop. And then you have to wait to get the film developed. The digital camera was a silent revolution in of itself. Of course, there was the Polaroid to see images instantly but it was really digital photos that were a new type of creation immortalized in ones and zeros.

I’ve got technology behind me. You will find out that its capacity is 50 snaps on a tiny little disk when you finish viewing. The Japanese have been threatening for over two years to launch an electronic stills camera which would enable you to take pictures like this straight onto the disk without the need for any processing. Well, they’re still working on the camera but the disk, as you see, has certainly arrived.
What’s more is that these pictures will last forever they won’t fade and they’ll never get scratched. But where did the technology for the digital camera come from and how they’re starting to disappear so fast? Today’s smartphones can do some things that even many standalone digital cameras can’t. We’ll take a look at the state of the art at the end of this video but first, the beginning. Most people think that the digital camera was an invention of the nineteen eighties. But its origins actually began in the previous decade. The story begins in 1974 with a young engineer working at Kodak; his name was Steve Sasson.
One day, Steve’s boss gave him a new kind of chip and a camera and asked him to do something with both. It was really just to keep Steve busy at the time. The chip that was handed to Steve was a CCD or Charged Coupled Device and it really is the heart of the digital camera. At the time, the CCD was a new experimental invention but was also unique as it could store large amounts of information by converting light into electrical charges that could eventually be stored as data. The idea was for revolutionary at the time but the question was: could you store images with this data? In essence, replacing century-old film with a CCD. Steve’s set off to find out. Steve and a lab technician James Lafleur used old circuit boards chips from a voltmeter and old lens to attempt to create this first digital camera. There’s a lot of work ahead of them. They first had to get the device to work at all. Next, they had to try and figure out how to digitize the signal and then eventually they had to find a way to read the digital signal and convert it into an image. It would be the recent 1971 invention of the microprocessor that would help with that last part. It took a few months and weighed 3.5 kilograms but by December of 75, they had a prototype. But would it work? There was only one way to find out these two weary guys needed something to take a photo of and the first photo subject happened to be a female lab technician that also went to Kota. Once the photo was taken they actually took 23 whole seconds to record the image
When the image came out from the screen it wasn’t the greatest quality and was actually pretty distorted. But the boys were ecstatic they were happy that it had worked at all. The technician whose photo was taken wasn’t impressed and simply stated that it needed more work. Steve soon discovered that he’d accidentally crossed two wires and when he uncrossed them the image became clear and with that final moment the digital camera was officially born.

Kodak did so much interest in the technology. However, if we really think about it from their point of view why would they? Kodak had been making film for 136 years at the time. So film and film development were a huge part of their business model.

The digital camera story continues in 1976. It would be the military that would independently find the first real-life application for the new technology. It came in the form of the spy satellite. At the time where treating film canisters and the issue of limited film capacity were two very real problems. Now of the CCD images could be transmitted to the ground with a crystal-clear resolution of 0.64 megapixels or 800 by 800 pixels.

As the years went by the military began to use digital cameras more and more and in soon scientific fields picked up on the technology and then later still medical applications By the late 1980s, the media and newspapers had got on board. In fact the small size of digital photos made it possible to transmit photos via phone line out from communist China during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. However, digital cameras are still very expensive for what you actually got. For example, in 1991 products brought to the market, kodak dcs 100 it had a 1.3 megapixel sensor and a bulky external digital storage system. It was priced at a very cheap thirteen thousand dollars and that’s about twenty-two thousand seven hundred dollars in today’s money. Very cheap. But, of course, by the mid to late 1990s the price began to drop and subsequently the use had widely spread to the common user.

What can a picture be? Well, it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be on paper or not. A picture can be whatever you want it to be because now Kodak gives you the power to take pictures further.

The turning point was in the 2000s. At this point, film cameras have been largely replaced by the younger digital counterparts. But how did we get from the 2000s to now? As you all know, the most common form of point-and-shoot digital camera currently resides in that computer in your pocket. The smartphone.

Before continuing, it is worth noting that 90% of mobile phones use a CMOS sensor. It’s a technology that came of age in the late 80s and early 90s. It is similar to CCD but cheaper to produce and does have a few issues such as rolling shutter during video capture.

Let’s continue! The first camera phone was actually by sharp. It was called the J phone and it was released back in 2000. It could take a whopping 20 photos at a resolution of 0.1 like megapixels. You could view the photos on its 1.5 inch LCD screen. But getting the photos off the phone was much more effort than it is today. Now I just want to show you a little something before you continue. I found a 2001 BBC report of the very curious and equally ridiculous idea of putting a camera on a cell phone this report was about the j phone itself. Just listen to some of the comments that were written 13 years ago.

  • Joanna from Finland says “A picture shooting cell phone certainly is a curious invention. Itcould be handy for delicate investigation or infiltration. Who would know to look for a camera on a phone?”
  • This comment from the UK writes “Infinite uses for the teenager, not entirely sure what the rest of us
    will do.
  • Julian from the UK is right on the money. He says “It’s an obvious move. Eventually all portable gadgets phone, camera, comm, computer must come together in one communications device”. And how right he was?

So it’s interesting to see how society reacts to such early versions, what would later become common to pretty much everyone. As we all know, as the 2000s flowed on the cameras got sharper, the phones got smarter and more full-featured. For much of this decade, each passing year saw a steady improvement in image technology and innovation. Like in 2010, you wouldn’t be too disappointed if you had to rely on a phone rather than a point-and-shoot digital camera. 2011 saw a few ill-fated ideas come into play. Stereographic, 3d was one of them. And both LG and HTC made that mistake. Today in 2014, it’s a completely different world. We have phones up to 41 megapixel sensors, place focusing, cinemagraphs, panoramas, HDR, burst modes, smile detection, face detection and a whole lot more. So today, we now have a camera with us all the time. We can instantly capture the amazing, the shocking or just the little personal things that make us who we are. All of this at anytime, anywhere, instantly. It hasn’t always been like this. So it’s an interesting time to realize.

History Of The Digital Camera [Remember Ep. 2]

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