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The digital camera is all but ubiquitous these days, with the technology now standard issue on everything from smartphones to laptops. The very first digital camera, however, will be 36 years old this year — the very first digital photograph was taken in December 1975.

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Kodak engineer Steven Sasson invented the digital camera and there’s a great (if somewhat short) video interview with him over at the David Friedman Photography blog.

In it, Sasson shows that same digital camera he first created in 1975 — it’s about the size of an electric toaster and weights 8lbs. The camera had a resolution of 0.01-megapixels (a resolution of approximately 120 x 80 pixels) and took 23 seconds to store a single image onto a compact cassette tape — the only viable permanent storage medium available at the time. Images could then be replayed on a separate TV (there was no built-in display).

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The camera could store 30 images onto each cassette, but this wasn’t a technological limitation. As Sasson explains in the video, he was keen to make the technology familiar to camera-users of the time and was mindful not to make his invention so far removed from 1975 technology that few people could imagine ever using it.

So, rather than opt for 1,000 images (a storage capacity he considered few people able to comprehend, let alone actually be able to cope with, in 1975), he picked 30 images as a mid-way point between the 24-shot and 36-shot rolls of 35mm film that were freely available.


Sasson reckoned that it would take between 15 to 20 years for his invention to be developed as a consumer device, and he wasn’t far wrong. Apple launched one of the first mass market digital cameras, the QuickTake, in 1994 and it could store eight photos at a resolution of 640 x 480. Something to think about when you’re snapping away with the 5-megapixel camera on a 16GB iPhone 4…

[David Friedman Photography]