How were digital cameras invented

The first digital camera in the world

In the mid-1970s, 25-year-old Kodak employee Steve Sasson presented a four-kilogram block that was supposed to turn the world of photography upside down. With the help of a used Super 8 lens, an improvised cassette drive and some high-tech from the 1970s, Sasson built the world's first digital camera. Little did he know what influence his camera block would one day have.

It was actually more of a fun project than anything else, says Sasson of the creation of the first digital camera. He and his team colleagues were commissioned to build a camera that would work with the then newly developed CCD chip.

A chip that was originally developed for data storage - but it quickly became clear that the components used are sensitive to light and that it is comparatively easy to capture a two-dimensional image. But Sasson notes that it was an extremely "capricious" piece of technology, because it was prone to failure.

A handicraft block made of high-tech

Sasson and his colleagues picked up more parts from old stocks in the Kodak building. The lens of a decommissioned Super 8 video camera served as the lens. And what small memory cards do with today's digital cameras, an audio cassette did with Sasson's camera, which could also store data in digital form - also known as a datasette.

The massive substructure of the first digital camera contained half a dozen circuits, which were primarily responsible for converting the analog input signals from the image sensor into digital data and forwards them to the datasette. 16 nickel-cadmium batteries completed the first construction of an at least halfway portable, filmless and fully electronic camera.

The first digital photo

On December 8, 1975, Sasson took the world's first digital picture. Sasson says it took exactly 23 seconds to save the recording to the cassette. The resolution of 100 × 100 pixels (0.01 megapixels) was a bit revolutionary, the inventor said in an interview.

In order to be able to view the photo, the cassette first had to be inserted into a special reader, which could read out the digitally stored image information and converted it into a video signal. The first digital photography could not be seen on a computer, but on a CRT television - in black and white.

Starting difficulties for camera pioneers

At Kodak, however, not everyone agreed on the epochal significance of Sasson's camera block. "Why would anyone want to look at photos on a television set? And what does an electronic photo album look like?" Many people were skeptical of such questions, reports Sasson. He also assumed that the technology would only be ready for the market in 15 to 20 years.

And so it happened. While Sasson strolled from one presentation to the next with his heavyweight camera at Kodak for over 30 years, competing companies such as Apple, Casio and Canon launched the first digital cameras for the masses as early as the 1990s. It wasn't until 2001 that Kodak began selling digital cameras on a large scale.

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