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quarta-feira, 6 de junho de 2012

The first digital camera

I Don’t remember how I ended up reading this, but that’s where I learned that in 1975 Steve Sasson, an engineer from Kodak, created the first digital camera, this one on the picture above. This little beauty weighed around 8 pounds (3,6 kg) and needed 23 seconds to take a picture, which was recorded in a cassette tape. The camera resolution in today therms would be 0.01 megapixels, an adorable square of 100x100 pixels, in black and white and to be seeing was necessary an equipment to convert it to a TV signal, taking another 23 seconds of your precious time to load each picture.

Doing some more research I found out that this camera was never intended as a product, it was only a conceptual test to study the possibilities of the first CCD image sensors, that were just created back then. The whole project, in fact, lasted something around one year.

I could have stopped here, but looking to this toaster-sized blue brick and then to the digital cameras of today, I felt that a bridge between this two things were missing, so I decided to find out who made the first modern digital camera, one that looks like the ones we know. That is how I got to this one below.

Launched in 1994, it was called Apple QuickTake 100, a project developed in a partnership between Apple, Kodak and Fujifilm. In 1995 and in 1997 there was two other models that were also important, the models QuickTake 150 and the QuickTake 200. In 1997, because of the crisis in Apple at that almost killed the company forever and with the return of Steve Jobs to the company, the QuickTake line, with its low selling numbers, were discontinued.

The technical specifications of the 3 models were very similar, despite the difference in years of each launch. The 3 cameras had a resolution of 0.3 megapixels, their photos were transfer via serial cable and they had enough memory to take 8 pictures at the maximum resolution (which was 640x480), or 32 pictures in a resolution of 320x240 pixels, only the 200 model who had support to SmartMedia cards, the grand father of SD cards, which could increase this capacity up to 4 times.

The problems who lead the QuickTake products to failure are many, but the most important ones are related to its price point and to the image and credibility that Apple had at that time, which was much different of today. Just to give some numbers, and they help, the QuickTake 100 model was sold for 749 dollars, the QuickTake 150 for 700 dollars and the QuickTake 200 for 600 dollars.

Something interesting about the QuickTake 200 is that it is the bridge I was looking for. Unlike the other models, it not only look like the cameras we know today, it even has for the first time the function selector circle at the top and small display to preview photos on the back. A curious fact about this model is that the design was created by Fujifilm and not by Apple.

Despite the failure, the line Apple QuickTake is considered by many specialists of technology as one of the most influentials gadgets of modern times and definitely one of the big responsables for the boom that happened in the digital camera market just somer years later, when much people were familiar with computers, when with computers had better displays, when internet and social networks were there.

If you wanna more, at the links you can find videos to all cameras, more information and an interview, that I recommend you to watch, with Steve Sasson, talking about that days in Kodak where they invented something they never expect to become what it did.

---  Links
Interview with Steve Sasson
Video of the first digital camera
SmartMedia Cards, the grand father of SD cards
More about Apple QuickTake
Apple QuickTake 100 in video 1
Apple QuickTake 100 in video 2
Apple QuickTake 150 in vídeo
Apple QuickTake 200 in vídeo