The Story of the World's First Digital Camera as Told By Its Inventor

It's hard to believe that digital cameras have been in existence for over four decades, but thanks to one creative engineer, we have one of the most ubiquitous pieces of modern technology. Hear the story of the birth of our beloved cameras from the inventor himself.

Way back in 1974, a young engineer at Kodak named Steven Sasson was given a project: examining the imaging performance of CCDs (charge-coupled devices). Sasson quickly realized the potential of the device, and about a year later, he took the first digital camera image ever. His device had a resolution of 0.01 megapixels, weighed 8 pounds, and took 23 seconds to record a single image to a cassette tape. Nonetheless, the idea and proof of its viability were there, though unfortunately, Kodak management failed to see the full potential. In fact, Sasson and Robert Hills made a modernized single-unit camera in 1989, but Kodak axed the idea of selling it for fear it would cannibalize film sales, and we all know what became of the company. Talk about your all-time miscalculations. Sasson went on to receive many accolades for his invention, including the United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation and the Royal Photographic Society Progress Medal.

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13 Comments

Jaap Venhovens's picture

So basicly Kodak, being one of the major film manufacturers, invented themselves out of business?

Bruno Domingues's picture

Did you watch the video at all, until the end? If you did, is that the one thing you take out of it?

Fritz John Asuro's picture

Like @Bruno said, did you watched it?
Anyway, to answer your question, sometimes it's not about how you start.

While they are much smaller than what they used to be, Kodak is not out of business. Their invention of the digital camera created a tremendous opportunity that they sat on and did not take fully advantage of out of fear of damaging an existing and successful business model, and the rest is history.

Joe Black's picture

Hahaha.

Josh Leavitt's picture

Awesome video! Thanks for posting.

"Don't be afraid of failure."

Fear of failure is what caused Kodak to fail.

@Alex Cooke. What was your first digital camera? Mine was a Minolta Dimage 7i. Loved it but it went through 4 rechargeable batteries in about 40 shots.

Alex Cooke's picture

It's weird you ask that; I was trying to figure out what my first digital camera was after I wrote this! From what's left on my computer, the Fuji Finepix A101 was definitely one of the earlier I had (came out in 2001, had 1.3 MP). I know that I played with a Mavica my dad's friend lent me for a few weeks years before that, though. The Fuji may have been the first I owned, though. I shot a ton of film when I was a kid through my early teens.

My first digital camera. I think my wife has it stored somewhere. Actually, I bought the camera for her.

Alex Cooke's picture

Sure beats the heck out of mine. My Fuji used those annoying Smartmedia cards — super expensive!

I was going to say I don't remember what card that camera used, and then I saw the "memory stick" logo on the camera. Ugh.

Alex Cooke's picture

Remember the days of 10 or 20 different memory card formats? I certainly don't miss those.