The History And Development Of The Digital Camera

The History And Development Of The Digital Camera

While the history of the camera is well documented and can be traced back over one hundred years its digital cousin has had less focus if you will excuse the pun. The history of the digital camera begins with a man called Eugene F. Lally who worked in jet propulsion and the development of artificial gravitational systems. Outside of work however Lally spent a great deal of time studying how to use mosaic photosensors to record images digitally. The use of this technology was not initially intended for the public sphere but was instead to be used by astronauts in order for them to photograph the planets and hence find their position in space.

At this point however the technology was not yet there to realise these concepts. This work went onto the backburner until 1975 when Steven Sasson an engineer working for Eastman Kodak managed to put together some old Motorola components with existing Kodak camera parts and Fairchild CCD sensors. The result was a camera the size of a toaster that weighed almost four kilograms. The images were recorded digitally onto a cassette tape and were viewed with the use of a special screen. This early model had serious limitations however, with the provision to only record in black and white as well as a 23 second shutter lag. However even though the 0.1 mega pixel resolution is poor by today’s standards, at the time it was truly revolutionary. Kodak however did not realise the potential for the device and instead focussed on the development of the film camera.

While a few digital camera models came into existence during the seventies it was not until Sony released the Mavica (Magnetic Video Camera) in 1981 that the digital ball was set rolling. Although the Mavica was not a stills camera in the strictest sense the technology it used was a predecessor of modern variants. At this stage however the device stored images on floppy disks, each being able to hold fifty photographs, the shutter speed had been improved however to a sixtieth of a second and the device was portable.

The eighties saw the true beginning of the digital age, the camera was purely a manifestation of this advancement in technology. Fairchild was once again instrumental in creating the first truly digital camera, named the All Sky; it was used to photograph auroras. What made the device truly digital was that unlike previous devices it also recorded the images digitally. These early cameras however did not go on sale to the mass public, the first device to do so was the Dycam Model 1 released in 1990, it had a CCD sensor, stored the pictures in a digital format and could be connected directly into a PC for image uploads.

None of these devices were affordable however. It was not until Apple released the Quick Take 100 in 1994 that a camera was available to consumers for under the thousand dollar mark. Two years later with the widespread use of media cards that digital technology truly took off. In 1995 however an archetypal device was produced by Casio and bore all of the features and design layout that can be seen on modern cameras, such as an in-built screen on the rear of the device.

Since this time the digital camera has become smaller and more affordable. Its development has not been rapid, but over time it has become a device that is present in nearly every home in developed countries. They are now a convenient and usable way to record imagery and take snapshots of the unforgettable moments in life.

Technology expert Thomas Pretty looks at the history and development of the digital camera and how it is now one of the most widely used electronic devices in the world.