The Most Influential Gear of All Time: Kodak Digital Camera


Designer Steve Sasson with an early-model digital camera

Designer Steve Sasson with an early-model digital camera     Photo: Courtesy of Kodak

It took a year of piecing together electronics and camera parts in a back lab at Kodak’s Elmgrove Plant in Rochester, New York, before the engineers and technicians at the Kodak Apparatus Division Research Lab had a Frankenstein collection of digital circuits that they called a portable electronic camera. The first digital camera used a lens from a bin of discarded Super 8 movie camera parts, and a portable digital cassette instrumentation recorder shoehorned onto the side. It took 23 seconds to record a digitized image to the cassette, and the image could only be viewed by removing the cassette from the camera and placing it in a custom playback device.

The technology advanced rapidly, which is probably why you don’t remember that custom playback machine, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that cameras began to reach a broad consumer base. After an aggressive marketing campaign in conjunction with Kinko’s and Microsoft, Kodak managed to make digital cameras ubiquitous.

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