In 1975, the Eastman Kodak Company assigned its engineering team the task of building a camera using electronic parts with an electronic sensor. Eastman Kodak Company electrical engineer Steve Sasson responded to this in 1975 by creating the world's first digital camera prototype. However, the experiment was never meant to be mass produced.
First but not Fastest
The first digital camera, invented by Steve Sasson, was cobbled together from parts from other cameras. The whole device weighed over 8 pounds and was as large as a toaster. It was nowhere as quick or compact as modern digital cameras or your ubiquitous camera phone. A prototype digital camera required 23 seconds to take a photograph and only produced images that were a tenth of a modern pixel. Then, the camera processed the image onto a cassette tape for an additional 23 seconds.
About Steve Sasson
Steve Sasson was born in New York on July 4, 1950. Growing up, he was an inveterate tinkerer, interested in all kinds of technology. That led to a degree in electrical engineering and his eventual experiments with digital photography as an employee of the Eastman Kodak Company. In 1978, Sasson and co-inventor Gareth A. Lloyd received U.S. patent 4,131,919 for the creation of the digital camera. The revolutionary camera did not hit the consumer market for nearly 15 years after its invention. It wasn't until Fuji released the DS-1P in 1988 that the digital camera market really began to take off. Fuji's camera was the first of its kind to store images digitally.
The Really Deep Background
Even before 1975, however, the beginnings of a digital camera were in the works.
- In 1972, the Texas Instruments created the patent for an all-electric camera. It is not known if any prototype was ever built, but there are none existing. The device actually ran on analog parts. Analog and electronic cameras led, in turn, to true digital technology.
- Years earlier, pioneers like Eugene Lally had the idea for a camera that used a mosaic photo sensor but never really acted on the idea at the time. Willis Adcock had an idea for a digital camera but never took any steps to create a working model. So, the revolutionary game-changer people take for granted today was pretty slow out of the gate. There were lots of missed opportunities there.
- Once the digital camera gained some traction, however, improvements swiftly followed. In the early 1990s, Kodak developed the photo CD system, the Kodak Professional Digital Camera System, and other digital advancements, including the first true digital SLR.
- The Apple Quicktake 100 camera gets credit for being the first digital camera to connect through a USB port.
Depth of Field
Today people take instant-access all-the-time digital photography for granted. Stores like Ritz Camera sell digital cameras for all purposes - from flower photography to underwater shoots. Film cameras are now turning up in vintage camera stores. However, none of the advances in digital camera technology could have ever happened if it was not for Steve Sasson and his breakthrough invention in late 1975.