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The story behind Kodak's first digital camera in 1975

What you see above is Kodak’s first digital camera, that is a camera that didn’t require any film. Developed by talented people in their Apparatus Division Research Laboratory in Rochester and unveiled in December 1975, this Frankensteinian device utilized scavenged parts, such as the lens from a Super 8 movie camera. Visionary Steve Sasson, the inventor of the digital camera, explains:

It was a camera that didn’t use any film to capture still images – a camera that would capture images using a CCD imager and digitize the captured scene and store the digital info on a standard cassette. It took 23 seconds to record the digitized image to the cassette. The image was viewed by removing the cassette from the camera and placing it in a custom playback device. This playback device incorporated a cassette reader and a specially built frame store. This custom frame store received the data from the tape, interpolated the 100 captured lines to 400 lines, and generated a standard NTSC video signal, which was then sent to a television set.

My favorite part of Sasson’s piece is this bit at the end:

It is funny now to look back on this project and realize that we were not really thinking of this as the world’s first digital camera. We were looking at it as a distant possibility. Maybe a line from the technical report written at the time sums it up best:

“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.”

But in reality, we had no idea …

What will be the digital camera of today in 30 years…? I, for one, am still hoping for the hoverboards.