It doesn’t matter what it was called; to us, it will from now on be known as Digital 1 — the first digital camera ever built. It happens to be by Steve Sasson who, on one fateful December 1975, after a year of piecing together a bunch of ‘new’ technology in a back lab at the Kodak Elmgrove Plant in Rochester, was ready to try the “rather odd-looking collection of digital circuits that we desperately tried to convince ourselves was a portable camera.”
The lens came from a used parts bin from the Super 8 movie camera production line, the imaging sensor was a new type of CCD imaging array with an A/D converter implementation stolen from a digital voltmeter application, and several dozen digital and analog circuits were all wired together on approximately half a dozen circuit boards.
The recording media was a portable digital cassette recorder which took 23 seconds to record a crude 100 line black and white image. It took 16 nickel cadmium batteries to power the contraption. That, ladies and gents, was the humble beginnings of the first ‘portable’ digital camera.
To view the recorded image, a microcomputer was used to display the images on a B&W TV screen.[DigiCamReview]
Little did Kodak executives know what they had within their grasp if only they would pursue it wholeheartedly, and they didn’t even publicly acknowledge the creation of the world’s first digital camera until 2001. Kodak did dabble into consumer digital cameras but probably faced strong opposition from established film divisions, and so relinquished the reins to others. The rest is history. But we take the time today to acknowledge the tremendous contribution of Steve Sasson and his team, as well as that of Kodak. We’re sure Kodak may surprise us still, especially in the field of image sensors. May the digital force be with you!