Friday, October 26, 2012

Kodak's first digital camera - 1975

In the week that Apple released the new iPad Mini and Microsoft released Windows 8 and its Surface tablet my colleague Bob Doran pointed me back to the future - 1975 to be precise. Steve Sasson, an engineer at Eastman Kodak, invented  the digital camera in December 1975. In a Kodak blog post written in 2007, before Kodak went bankrupt, Sasson explains how it was constructed: "It had a lens that we took from a used parts bin from the Super 8 movie camera production line downstairs from our little lab on the second floor in Bldg 4. 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 all electronic still camera might look like."
   We all become mesmerized by the new and the shiny but this reminds us that being first or being an established powerful company doesn't inevitably result in long term success. Sasson ends his post with, "The camera described in this report represents a first attempt demonstrating a photographic system which may, with improvements in technology, substantially impact the way pictures will be taken in the future. - how did Kodak get it so wrong.