1975: The First Digital Camera
I’ve had these images laying around for ages and stumbled across them again tonight. This is a prototype digital camera Kodak produced way back in 1975. The “toaster-sized” system relied on a cassette tape for recording data. The digitized images took 23 seconds to record to tape which then had to be played back using a specialized system (shown in the second photo — note the name of the Motorola computer, “EXORciser”). This is one of those times where I’m tempted to say “look how far we’ve come in such a short time!”. But damn, 1975? I wasn’t even born. I never would have guessed they had this sort of tech back then.
I’m really not sure I’d be doing the things I do now if I was coming up back in those days. Either computers have made me lazy, or I’m just inherently lazy, but I honestly can’t imagine dealing with 23-second-per-image write times and cassette tapes.
Check out this piece about the process of creating the prototype by one of the original team members, Steve Sasson: “Plugged In – We Had No Idea“
26 Comments Leave A Comment
Emile says:August 11, 2010 at 3:44 am
lol, I wonder if it is limited to one frame per tape. The family archive could get bulky :-P
Seems like the development of the digital camera was held back by the limited microchips availible, as well as the slow disk access… but conceptually they got the just of it :-)
Colin says:August 11, 2010 at 5:59 am
It’s hard to fathom waiting 23 seconds for a photo to upload, however they were used to having to wait a few days for film to be developed, or having to do it themselves. Though I agree it sounds crazy to us, I bet it was the freaking lavish lap of luxury back in those days. It definitely makes me thankful for where technology is now, however I look forward to the days when my kids laugh at us having to have to “wait during render times” and using those old mice and keyboard things. It’s a crazy place…
David Kellman says:August 11, 2010 at 8:25 am
Twenty-three seconds?! That’s blazing fast! (for 1975) I wonder what took them so long for it to take off, though now that I think about it, I’m sure that there were plenty of photographers who felt it wasn’t pure or what have you.
fr says:August 11, 2010 at 11:37 am
“I wonder what took them so long for it to take off”
Their prediction was actually fairly accurate. From the article… “When would this type of approach be available to the consumer? …we attempted to address the last question by applying Moore’s law to our architecture (15 to 20 years to reach the consumer)” That prediction was pretty much right on the mark.
Ryan says:August 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm
There were many times I failed to resist putting my Commodore 64 data cassettes into the stereo tape deck. Makes me wonder what one of these “image” tapes would have sounded like…
Scott says:August 11, 2010 at 12:52 pm
I wonder if it’s even audible? I have some old Italian Siel Synthesizers whose memories could only be backed up or transferred via cassette tape. But now with digital audio you can just record the memories straight to a DAW. But never played back the audio, might try today.
Fisher Price Kid Tough Digital Camera says:August 12, 2010 at 4:21 am
Sturdy dual hand grips help them steady their shot. Big buttons are easy for their little hands to press!
Ryan says:August 12, 2010 at 12:44 pm
I kinda hope the tape data would sound something like this: http://www.semiconductorfilms.com/root/Black_Rain/Black_Rain.htm
fr says:August 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm
I’m pretty sure digital data stored to cassette sounds like old modem noises. It’s a similar process afaik.
Vtech Camera says:August 13, 2010 at 2:40 am
The KidiZoom digital camera includes a connector cable so your kids can watch a photo slide show, or you can view your kids’ movies on your TV or PC.
Checking says:August 14, 2010 at 1:35 am
Is this really digital?
Or is this an analog recording on magnetic tape? i. e. the stull image version of a VHS cam.
honeydo says:August 17, 2010 at 11:38 am
23 seconds! That’s nothing compared to how long my paper has to sit in the developer before it even goes to the stop, fixer, wash and dry. piece of cake ;)
Matt Lundstrom says:August 25, 2010 at 12:13 pm
Reminds me of the Fisher Price PixelVision camera:
Came out in 1987 and recorded video to audio cassette tape.
Digital Camera Photo Recovery Software says:September 8, 2010 at 12:39 am
Nice to see the ancestor of digital cameras. Recording on magnetic tape was the interesting concept but taking 23 seconds to capture a image is too long. It’s very huge as compare to today’s digital cameras.
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