The Invention of the Useful Digital Camera
The digital camera was invented by a man named Steven Sasson, an electrical engineer for The Eastman Kodak Company, in 1975. His invention weighed 8 pounds and had only 0.01 megapixels. The black and white image was recorded onto a cassette which took 23 seconds.
The Idea of the Digital Camera
The idea of the digital camera started back in 1974 when Steven Sasson was asked by his supervisor to look into a new device that had arrived at the Kodak Apparatus Division research lab in Rochester N.Y. The new item was called a Charge Coupled Device (CCD), released by the Fairchild Corp. “It was a very open ended task and so I thought if we could investigate the imaging via an image capture type of device it would be interesting said Sasson” (megapixel). He decided to make a camera related device that could capture still images. He also used a completely digital approach to eliminate mechanical complexity; therefore, letting him see the captured images on a conventional TV set using a playback system. He began to put together this new device, with the help of a talented technician, Jim Schueckler. Together
they used parts and pieces from around the Kodak lab and factory. In 2007 Sasson wrote a blog post on Kodak’s website explaining how the camera was made. “It had a lens that we took from a used parts bin from the Super 8 movie camera production line downstairs from one of our smaller labs. On the side of our portable contraption, we shoehorned in a portable digital cassette instrumentation recorder. Add to that 16 nickel cadmium batteries, a highly temperamental new type of CCD imaging area array, an a/d converter implementation stolen from a digital voltmeter application, several dozen digital and analog circuits all wired together on approximately half a dozen circuit boards, and you have our interpretation of what a portable, electronic camera might look like” (petapixel). The electronic circuits and CCD device were contained in one aluminum unit, about the size of a toaster. Jim Schueckler thought they should paint it to hide some small grease stains, scratches, and other small various marks. They chose blue because that was the only paint they had. The digital camera invented by Steven Sasson in 1975 changed the way the average person used a camera.
What Company got Credit for the Invention of the Digital Camera
The prototype digital camera was finished during the month of September in 1975. About one year after they started back in the winter of 1974. There was only one prototype made. The day they finished, Sasson persuaded a lab assistant to pose for him. The first picture taken took 23 seconds to process and another 23 seconds be shown on a TV screen. Steven Sasson and his team saw the first digital picture, only .01 megapixels by today’s standards, in black and white. “’You could see the silhouette of her hair,” Sasson said. But her face was a blur of static. “She was less than happy with the photograph and left, saying ‘You need work,’" he said (NBCnews). It only took a few wire rearrangements to fix the photo and have the face restored to normal. Kodak was the first company to make the digital camera, with help of employee Steven Sasson, but they didn’t stick with it in the beginning. The company dropped the product idea at first, in fear that it might drop their large film sales. When other brands started producing digital cameras, Kodak didn’t make their own, they simply designed the digital part for other company’s camera body.
Other Company’s Success and Failure in the Digital Camera Age
Shortly after Kodak made the digital camera, other company’s wanted to try. Cannon, Nikon, Pentax, and Fuji Film are a few popular brands. The first digital camera put up on the market was the Sony Mavica. It was a digital camera, but took photos the same way Steven Sassons prototype did. It took a still image and recorded up to 25 photos on a Floppy Disk. The photos stored on the Floppy Disk were only viewable on a TV. The first digital camera with its own digital storage was the Fujitech DS-1P. It stored images on a volatile internal SRAM. If the battery died, you lost your photos. This camera was never put up for sale, but a newer and updated version called the Logitech Fotoman was later released. When the Fotoman was available for sale, it could be connected to a PC to download and save your photos. It cost $995. Kodak finally realized digital photography was taking off. They produced their first digital camera, the DCS 100. It was Kodak technology inside a Nikon F3 body. The Nikon body was practically unaltered, except, you had to carry around a 250mb hard drive the size of a large dictionary to store up to 150 photos. It could be connected to a PC and the whole unit retailed for about $30,000.00. They later squeezed the hard drive into the camera and updated it to a newer model. Cannon made their own first digital camera on May 17, 2000 and it was called the Canon Powershot 600. The first digital camera on the cheaper side compared to others was the Apple Quick Take 100. It had Apple’s logo on it, but was internally built by Kodak. But like all Apple products it was easier to use than all the other digital cameras on the market. It retailed for $750 which is fairly pricey, but compared to the $1,000 - $30,000 ones it was less expensive. You had no way of seeing the photo unless it was
connected it to an Apple computer. The public reaction to this was, “You want $750 for that?!” The Quick Take 100 camera was produced when Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, was not currently working for the company. As soon as Steve Jobs returned, all non-computer related products were discontinued from Apple, including the Quick Take 100. Cannon and Nikon are now the two biggest digital camera company’s on the market. They sell a wide variety of digital cameras, from affordable ones, super expensive ones, digital cameras with a film camera looking body, to digital cameras that take video and have their own Wi-Fi for photo transfers. Today, cell phones can take better photos than the average digital camera on the market 10 years ago. The digital camera has come a long way in many aspects, but in just 30 years, the camera’s megapixel count (sharpness and quality look of a photo) has jumped from .001 in Sasson’s prototype, to 35 in Nikon’s D800.
Before Steven Sasson invented the first digital camera, Kodak was selling 89% of film cameras in the US. When Steven Sasson made the digital camera, Kodak didn’t see much of a market for digital cameras and continued selling three quarters of the film cameras and film in the US. When Cannon and Nikon started making digital cameras, Kodak fell behind slightly. It didn’t seem much of a big deal at the time. After digital cameras hit the market, film cameras slowly went out of date, until eventually very few people used them. And then Kodak fell really far behind.