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Kodak's 1975 Digital Camera 140

Posted by timothy
from the hardly-any-megapixels-a'tall dept.
pickens writes "The NY Times reports on a digital camera put together at Kodak's Elmgrove Plant labs in Rochester, NY during the winter of 1975 from a mishmash of lenses and computer parts and an old Super 8 movie camera that took 23 seconds to record a single digital image to its cassette deck and using a customized reader could display the image on an old black and white television. Called 'Film-less Photography,' it took a 'year of piecing together a bunch of new technology' to create the camera which ran off 'sixteen nickel cadmium batteries, a highly temperamental new type of CCD imaging area array, an a/d converter implementation stolen from a digital voltmeter.' When the team of technicians presented the camera to Kodak audiences they heard a barrage of curious questions including — 'Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV?'"
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Kodak's 1975 Digital Camera

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  • I had a Canon Xapshot purchased in 1989 which I used combined with my Amiga to upload images to FTP sites in the early 90's. It wasn't truly "digital" although it was often referred to as such. More of a video stillshot camera, but still quite convenient for putting images into digital formats.

    Not quite the same thing really, but the point is there's been an interest in digital photography for a long time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by confused one (671304)
      Even the summary makes it clear that the Kodak prototype preceded your experience by 14 years.
      • by gbh1935 (987266)
        The real question is did they patent the concept and who are they going to sue?
        • by tverbeek (457094)

          The patent would have expired by now. The terms are still too long, and patent law has a host of other problems, but at least patents still expire.

      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        Even the summary makes it clear that the Kodak prototype preceded your experience by 14 years.

        That and (as the OP acknowledges, but slightly minimises the significance of) the fact that the Xapshot wasn't digital. I'm guessing that the Xapshot was comparable to the Mavica still video cameras (*) Sony produced during the mid-to-late 1980s (**) which effectively recorded a single frame of NTSC-resolution video to a single track of a floppy disc in fully analogue format. I assume that it would still have required some form of digitiser to get it into the Amiga, so while such cameras were an important s

      • by Rog7 (182880)

        Even the summary makes it clear that the Kodak prototype preceded your experience by 14 years.

        I wasn't contradicting the article, I'm just saying it's not a one-shot anomaly that happened in the 70's and then resurfaced years later.

        I'd think you'd be able to actually read to catch that, rather than just um, accuse me of not reading. *rolls eyes*

    • by tverbeek (457094) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @07:52AM (#33402446) Homepage

      A bit closer in time to the Kodak project was an exhibit/activity at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in (I think) 1978. The subject sat in front of a video camera which fed its signal to a computer, which did an analog-to-digital conversion and produced a "portrait by computer": overprinting characters on a dot-matrix printer to produce the right tonal value for each (rather large) pixel. When I sat for it, this [toddverbeek.com] was the result. I was really into photography (darkroom in the basement, etc), and this helped spark my interest in computers; I started saving my nickels and bought an Atari 400 a couple years later.

  • Typical. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by w0mprat (1317953) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @04:45AM (#33401878)
    As with most engineering exercises, if your not intrigued by the novel and clever and application of new technology, there's little value to be seen by non-technical types. Hence observations such as the summary mentions 'Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV?" - more from TFA: " How would you store these images? What does an electronic photo album look like? When would this type of approach be available to the consumer?" - the engineers at Kodak didn't consider any real world application.

    What we can learn from this is there's a lot of technology we've have had sooner if industrial design and packaging was a priority, rather than just getting something working for a cool demo, and assuming observers would understand the potential.
    • Re:Typical. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @05:14AM (#33401982)

      What we can learn from this is there's a lot of technology we've have had sooner if industrial design and packaging was a priority, rather than just getting something working for a cool demo, and assuming observers would understand the potential.

      This is a load of crap. It is the lack of vision of supervisors and management that keep these type of "engineering exercises" from making it out of the lab. The day we limit ourselves to the "how it works" people for "everything that can be done with it" is the day we stop innovating. Sometimes things start in the lab and creep out into the marketplace and other times ideas grow in the mind of individuals and they ask the people in the lab to "make it happen". You don't always need to "see the future" to be able to create it.

      • Yep. First you see whether it can even be done. THEN you see whether it can be made into a convenient package and be practical. But I can understand questions of this nature, like the one about only a few people in the world having a use for a computer... when they filled a huge room and required expensive air conditioning and a staff of people to keep operating. In that I agree; what use would people have of a heavy camera that took that long to take pictures, assuming that was the best it could be at the
    • Not necessarily (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @05:38AM (#33402056)

      There is a lot of things that need to come together to make a technology viable. It isn't a case of "Oh had it just been packaged/marketed better it would have been around earlier!" Other technologies also have to develop to let something be cheap enough, usable enough, to support it, etc.

      While this technology was cool as an engineering demo, the rest of the tech out there wasn't up to spec. It was huge and expensive, it never would have been practical to sell, regardless of marketing. Yes, as time went on the tech developed and got cheaper... And as it did we did indeed get digital cameras.

      Also you have to look at supporting tech. Viewing a photo on a computer monitor, or maybe HDTV, works fine because they are quite high resolution. Viewing a photo on an NTSC TV, especially a 70s NTSC TV would have sucked. Photo paper was just too far superior. Without ubiquitous high rez displays, an all-digital imaging format is something hard to sell.

      While sometimes all the stuff we need is already there for years and it takes a person to realize the potential and put it in to a package people will buy, other times developments happen before supporting tech is ready for it. You can see this countless times when something would be tried, with the best tech of the day, and just not really be a marketable device, despite how neat it is. Years later it is done again and sells well, because required technologies have advanced to the point you can do it now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by michaelmalak (91262)

        There is a lot of things that need to come together to make a technology viable.

        Yes, and you made my first of two points, so I'm just replying to your post, and will make my second point of why 1975 was not the right time for digital cameras:

        In 1975, we were still living in the era of scarcity. If you read Little House on the Prairie, you see what we would now consider abject poverty that they had in the nineteenth century -- hand-held slates because paper was too expensive; Ma's "china shepherdess", her s

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by maxume (22995)

          Authoritative fiction!

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Fulminata (999320)
            Yeah, pretty much. I lived through the 70s and 80s, and the disposable culture was already well established. Well, in the case of the 70s, that was probably the decade that it became established, but by 75 the change was well underway.

            The average household in 1975 probably did just have one television, but that was one of the last years for which that was true, and households that were "early adopters" probably already had at least a second television in the master bedroom.

            By the end of the decade I
    • Re:Typical. (Score:5, Funny)

      by dangitman (862676) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @05:43AM (#33402072)

      As with most engineering exercises, if your not intrigued by the novel and clever and application of new technology, there's little value to be seen by non-technical types. Hence observations such as the summary mentions 'Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV?"

      What they should have been asking is "Is it possible to take photos of cats with this camera and superimpose poorly spelled captions over them?"

    • Re:Typical. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nusuth (520833) <oooo_0000us@COLAyahoo.com minus caffeine> on Saturday August 28, 2010 @06:04AM (#33402126) Homepage
      The problem is neither vision nor ergonomics. Unless you have energy efficient, cheap and fast memory, processors and ccd, digital photography cannot be done at consumer level regardless of how you package it. Availability of affordable computer to transfer, store and manipulate those photographs is also important (although not as critical as availability of cam components.) None of these can be developed and produced with a single vision of producing a digital camera (except perhaps cheap ccd) because there is not enough volume. These technologies must become available for larger aplications and then adapted for digital cameras. Digital photography arrived when it arrived becuase that is when electronics and computer technology made it viable.
    • Re:Typical. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ephemeriis (315124) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @07:11AM (#33402300)

      What we can learn from this is there's a lot of technology we've have had sooner if industrial design and packaging was a priority, rather than just getting something working for a cool demo, and assuming observers would understand the potential.

      Except that neither industrial design nor packaging would have helped Kodak sell this film-less camera.

      The problem with this film-less approach, in 1975, was largely one of infrastructure. Just look at the questions:

      Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV? Given the technology of the time, it's a valid question. Folks didn't have home computers. TVs were low-resolution. Hell, not even everyone had a TV. Why would you go through the process of lugging around a giant camera and waiting several seconds for it to write to tape just to view a picture on a TV? Why not take a normal picture, get it developed normally, and look at a crisp photo like normal?

      How would you store these images? Again, nobody had computers. You couldn't write these tapes to your HDD. You couldn't upload them to a server or burn them to CD. You'd be storing a box of tapes. Why do that when you could just store photos instead?

      What does an electronic photo album look like? The answer, of course, is Flickr, but that didn't exist at the time. What would an electronic photo album look like without a computer? It'd have to be another piece of hardware attached to a TV in all likelihood.

      The problem wasn't vision... It wasn't packaging... It wasn't marketing... The problem was a lack of digital infrastructure to support electronic photography. The world, at the time, was still essentially analog. Yes, computers existed. Yes, networks existed. But you didn't have the kind of ubiquity that we do today. Today absolutely everything has a fairly high resolution display on it. Today pretty much everything has Internet access. Today you can view those film-less photos on almost anything you want, or print them out easier than you can get a real photo developed. Back in 1975 that just wasn't true.

      • Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV?

        Given the technology of the time, it's a valid question. Folks didn't have home computers. TVs were low-resolution. Hell, not even everyone had a TV.

        Not only that - but a significant percentage of TV's out there were still black-and-white. (I remember seeing b&w sets offered for sale right alongside color ones up until the early/mid 80's) And even if you had a color set, the color quality was... often not the greatest in the world, and cer

        • Even if it did perform as well, the 'prosumer' market of today didn't exist.

          Yes it did, that's who Popular PHotography Magazine and those 35mm camera ads in National Geographic were for. Even when I was a youngun, at most school events there's be maybe 1 or 2 parents with 35mm cameras

          • Even if it did perform as well, the 'prosumer' market of today didn't exist.

            Yes it did, that's who Popular PHotography Magazine and those 35mm camera ads in National Geographic were for. Even when I was a youngun, at most school events there's be maybe 1 or 2 parents with 35mm cameras

            The 35mm cameras advertised in National Geographic were largely the equivalent of today's point-and-shoot cameras. (That is, they did not have interchangeable lenses.) Professional gear, then and now, means SLR not 35mm.

      • by sphealey (2855)

        > How would you store these images? Again, nobody had computers. You couldn't write
        > these tapes to your HDD. You couldn't upload them to a server or burn them to CD.
        > You'd be storing a box of tapes. Why do that when you could just store photos instead?

        And in fairness to those 1975 skeptics this question still hasn't been really answered; we as a family would find it far easier to make prints from my spouse's family's 1870-era glass plate negatives or our large collection of 1980-era negatives and

    • Re:Typical. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dzfoo (772245) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @07:25AM (#33402338)

      Not quite. If you read the original blog entry from Mr. Sasson, you'll realize that they themselves had no idea of any real world application of the device. They built it because they thought it was a nifty technological problem to solve, without any clear direction as to how it would apply in the real world.

      Those questions asked by the audience after the demo are as relevant today as they were back then:

      • Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV? Indeed. If you consider how digital photography has captured the mass consumer market you'll see that there are many factors that contributed to this adoption: the ability to share photos, to keep and view them on very personalized portable devices, e-mail, web blogs, JPEG, the Internet, personal computers, etc. Many of these could not have even been conceived back in 1975, but none of them include just merely passively watching a photograph on a TV screen.
      • How would you store these images? It must be an efficient, stable and non-volatile mechanism; one that at least outlasts photo paper and costs at most as much, otherwise there is absolutely no advantage to the consumer. Did any such affordable mechanisms exist during 1975? Perhaps, but we can know for sure that personal computers as we know them now, did not; so there wasn't a readily available storage medium of which consumers could take advantage.
      • What does an electronic photo album look like? We know now, of course, but it wasn't even obvious during the advent of the first set of consumer digital cameras how to best store, display, and enjoy and share a digital photo collection; apart from the then typical hierarchical file/folder storage system.
      • When would this type of approach be available to the consumer? As Mr. Sasson suggested to his audience in 1975, ignoring all practical and philosophical questions above, and considering this purely as a technological problem; Moore's law predicts it would have been 15 to 20 years. That would have put the device on consumers' hands in the early- to mid-1990s. As it turned out, that was overly optimistic--but not by much! Now, take into consideration that personal computers--the primary storage and central point of digital photography collections--did not become massively popular until sometime in the 1990s and it should be obvious why it may have taken a few years more for the idea to truly catch on.

      The real lesson of this story is that novel ideas and interesting inventions cannot amount to much without an actual real-world application that solves a real problem, addresses a real need, or enhances a real existing application. Additionally, we can learn that sometimes these interesting but otherwise useless (in practical terms) inventions can indeed achieve popularity and become useful--or even necessary--by previously unforeseen factors aligning serendipitously to provide the perfect mix of technology, application, and demand for them to evolve and flourish to fill that need.

      Mr. Sasson says that, back in 1975, they had no idea what a portable, all-digital, film-less photo camera could amount to, nor how or why it would be used. Yet they were intuitively impressed that it would necessarily change things. And in that they were presciently correct.

                -dZ.

      • Re:Typical. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tverbeek (457094) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @08:17AM (#33402580) Homepage

        I was around in 1975. I remember the technology that existed and understand what it was capable of. And, Senator, it was not ready for this rather brilliant idea.

        In fact, the questions posed by the Kodak suits continued to plague digital photography for another quarter century. Despite my interest in both photography and computers, I didn't buy a digital camera until around 2000 because the technology just wasn't good enough yet (at least not an affordable price). In 1975 working on digital photography was a bit like Leonardo working on manned flight in 1500. It wasn't anyone's "lack of vision" that kept the pilgrims from coming to North America on an airplane instead of the Mayflower; it was the state of the technological arts.

        • by dzfoo (772245)

          That is kind of my point. I extend this further by positing that it is not only the state of the technological arts of the device, but the preexistence of an ecosystem to facilitate or support such device and its application--and ultimately create a need or desire for it--that drives its adoption by society. This ecosystem is not only technological in nature, but cultural, environmental, and philosophical.

          If paper is such a successful, cheap, stable, and versatile medium, why would anybody want to replace

      • That would have put the device on consumers' hands in the early- to mid-1990s. As it turned out, that was overly optimistic--but not by much!

        Actually that's right. I was playing with an Apple QuickTake c. 1993 and that was second-generation unit (150 vs 100 maybe?), as I recall. I wound up getting a Ricoh digital camera a couple years later. It was NTSC-based just like the Kodak system, but pocket-sized. It ran on a PCMCIA-style memory card, same as the Bay routers at work used. It wasn't until I got

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        > Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV? Indeed. If you consider how
        > digital photography has captured the mass consumer market you'll see that there are many
        > factors that contributed to this adoption: the ability to share photos, to keep and view them
        > on very personalized portable devices, e-mail, web blogs, JPEG, the Internet, personal computers,
        > etc. Many of these could not have even been conceived back in 1975, but none of them include just
        > merely passively

        • by dzfoo (772245)

          Although what you say is true, and I generally agree with your closing comment, you missed the bigger point of my post: TV as a display medium for digital pictures is not enough to make the technology useful for mass adoption. People do much more than just view photographs: they are truly an extension of their own memory. They store them, treasure them, carry them around with them, share them, and yes, view them.

          There is much more infrastructure currently that allows that digital camera to be viewed on a

      • It must be an efficient, stable and non-volatile mechanism; one that at least outlasts photo paper and costs at most as much,

        Incidentally, I don't think we have such media - one that would be both affordable and outlast photo paper.

        - Magnetic tapes: 10-20 years. Very sensitive to heat and humidity.
        - Hard drives: 10-25 years. Some seem to lose parts of the magnetic coating if not spun in a few years.
        - CD-R: 2.5-15 years. There are some manufacturers that claim a retention time of about 100 years, but those CD-Rs are not really affordable.
        - DVD+/-R: see above.
        - Flash: 10 years.

        Pictures on photo paper have survived many decades, wit

    • doh. digital cameras would have bombed in 1975... And for 20 years after . Go look up the word ' market '. jesus , geeks are so narrow..

  • by penguinchris (1020961) <penguinchris.gmail@com> on Saturday August 28, 2010 @04:52AM (#33401902) Homepage

    Kodak's image these days is fairly poor; although their digital cameras are pretty popular in the cheap category they're basically non-existent in the professional arena.

    Which is too bad, because they did a lot of things to advance photography over the years, not least of which was introducing it to "the masses". I guess now that I think about it, that's what they're still trying to do now with their cheap digital cameras that are fairly decent. But of course they used to contribute much to professionals as well, especially good quality film. They never really had high-end cameras that were used professionally, it was really all about the film, so the switch to digital hit them hard.

    My uncle worked as head of a research division at Kodak for many years, and still lives in Rochester. I attended the University of Rochester, which back when George Eastman was around got quite a lot of Kodak money and wouldn't be the school it is today without it. So I've had a lot of exposure to Kodak over the years. I've heard of this digital camera before, and other interesting things they've done.

    If you're in the area it's definitely worth checking out the George Eastman House museum. It's his rather incredible mansion, turned into a photography museum. I don't remember if I heard about this camera there; possibly not but they do have all kinds of old equipment on display. They also have an attached movie theater, which shows a different classic, art-house, etc. film every single night. I don't live there any more, but as a student I went to their classic film showings all the time. Always on 35mm and great prints. There's a school for film preservation there, and a huge collection of films.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Kodak will forever be remembered as the 'Xerox' of digital photography. They had it, they had it first and they shelved it. They would have had all the early patents on digital photography, image formats, etc. They could have changed the game, but instead they clung to their entrenched mindset.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dmesg0 (1342071)

        They didn't really shelve it, they continued to invest in the development of the digital photography and made many achievements. They improved the CCDs a lot, built the digital part of the first professional SLRs (using bodies from Nikon and later Canon). However they were unable to keep the pace and were soon surpassed by the Japanese companies

        Ironically Kodak contributed a lot to the technology that in the end made their traditional business obsolete.

        • by sphealey (2855)

          > They didn't really shelve it, they continued to invest in the
          > development of the digital photography and made many achievements.
          > They improved the CCDs a lot, built the digital part of the first
          > professional SLRs (using bodies from Nikon and later Canon). However
          > they were unable to keep the pace and were soon surpassed by the
          > Japanese companies

          I believe Kodak also built the only sensor package optimized specifically for black-and-white images, which sadly (but not surprisingly) did

      • They do have a lot of the early digital photo patents. They're still filing more too.

        They also built one of the first, if not the first, commercial 35mm sensor digital SLRs, for the professional market. They also made one of the earliest production consumer digital cameras too. They've since ceeded these markets though, I think the problem was that they were too far ahead of the game and gave up too soon, had they stuck with it for only a few more years then the popular perception might have been differe

      • by evilviper (135110)

        They would have had all the early patents on digital photography, image formats, etc

        Well, if they filed all their patents in 1975, they would generally have expired by 1995, before digital cameras became practical, let alone popular.

        It's only a feel-good notion to think that innovation always pays off. Kodak could have spent a ton of money on R&D, and ended up WORSE than they are now. Business often works that way. It's especially true when switching from high-margin to low-margin products, and havin

    • by gtomorrow (996670)

      So I've had a lot of exposure to Kodak over the years.

      STOP IT! YOU'RE KILLIN' ME! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    • by jedrek (79264) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @06:57AM (#33402268) Homepage

      Kodak makes a ton of sensor for other camera companies, including some of the best, high-end medium format sensors in the game. None of the film manufacturers has done as well in the digital arena: Agfa, Konica, etc. Fuji's doing pretty well, but then they make fine lenses for medium (hasselblad uses them) and large format.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CmdrChaos (1742296)
      Kodak is a perfect example of the way the patent system should work. They realized a long time ago they didn't have to make things. They just had to invent the technology. Fuji film was made under a Kodak patent. They have patents on lens technology as well as digital tech. The chances are every time you bye a camera Kodak makes a little bit of money.
      • by vadim_t (324782)

        Problem is that this is the exact same thing that patent trolls do, except they actually do research instead of buying the patents. And if they ever go under, a troll might end up with them.

        I support the complete elimination of the patent system, though I realize that would hit some people and companies that use it in a non-malicious manner, because I believe the overall effect will be an improvement.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday August 28, 2010 @08:33AM (#33402652) Homepage Journal

      Which is too bad, because they did a lot of things to advance photography over the years, not least of which was introducing it to "the masses". I guess now that I think about it, that's what they're still trying to do now with their cheap digital cameras that are fairly decent.

      WHAT cheap digital cameras that are fairly decent? I owned one Kodak digital camera (not a particularly cheap one, either) and the interface was so bad and so slow that I decided never to give them any of my money again. I've bought four digitals since and didn't even THINK of reading the reviews for the Kodaks, let alone purchasing one.

  • Good question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JorDan Clock (664877) <jordanclock@gmail.com> on Saturday August 28, 2010 @04:55AM (#33401908)

    Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV?

    Because non-moving images on a TV scare people. That's why the History Channel does that Ken Burns thingy whenever they show a bunch of old pictures narrated by someone with a dull, droning voice. No one would watch it if the picture just sat there, staring back at you like some kind of demon box.

  • by houghi (78078) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @04:56AM (#33401916)

    http://pluggedin.kodak.com/post/?id=687843 [kodak.com]
    The date there is October 16, 2007

    News? Hardly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      We would have got it sooner if someone in Kodak management had 'green-lighted' the posting of it rather than waiting for someone else to reinvent the approval ;-)
    • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @05:32AM (#33402028)

      The date there is October 16, 2007

      Well, at least slashdot's 3 years beats the 32 years it took Kodak to post the article on their website!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snsh (968808)
      One oddity of film photography was that people would shoot Christmas, New Years, and then the following Christmas on the same roll of film, and then suddenly want the film developed in under 1 hour.
    • Yea but interesting (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ilgaz (86384)

      Slashdot isn't "digg". I didn't read about that story until today, I don't care whether it was written in 2007 or even 1997.

      Story fits well to today where trendy idiots think Kodak is some patent trolling company who didn't invent anything. Perhaps, it may educate them a bit.

      Funny that, one of their "failed" "old" devices format is still in use today, completely open and there is no way you will do anything without using that format in pro/movie.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cineon [wikipedia.org]

      It was some amazing technol

  • by Two99Point80 (542678) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @04:58AM (#33401924) Homepage
    Looks like this project was the inspiration for the PXL-2000 [wikimedia.org]...
    • by Dogtanian (588974)
      No, AFAICT the inspiration for the PXL-2000 was the advent of mass-market camcorders in the mid-1980s. While those were the first time such portable video equipment was affordable to amateurs and consumers, they were still very expensive (IIRC around the UK £1000 mark- approximately £2000 or US $3000 in today's money) and way out of reach for kids. By using normal audio cassettes and various tricks the PXL-2000 was much cheaper.

      I remember seeing what (in retrospect) must have been the PXL-2000
  • A piece of history (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psychotria (953670) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @04:59AM (#33401926)

    I'm not sure why this is only just being presented on Slashdot because it's a very old article. Nevertheless it's an important part of history. It marks one of the first points where photography began to move away from chemical reactions on emulsions to light being recorded digitally. For many years of course digital photography was regarded as inferior to images captured on film and some still cling onto that idea. But I am in the group that believes that that idea is no longer true. Digital photography has opened up whole new avenues of expression and allows a range of techniques that would have been impossible or prohibitively impractical using film. An example, I guess, would include focus stacking where a number of photos with a slightly different focal plane are combined into a single image with increased depth of field. Digital photography has, in my opinion, opened up new areas for creative exploration that were not possible with film. So, yeah, the article refers to an important piece of history.

    • "I'm not sure why this is only just being presented on Slashdot"

      Groundwork for patent claims?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Well I'm one of those 'still clinging onto that idea'.

      I'll take your example - can you show me an artistic photograph that uses this photo-stacking technique? As a keen photographer myself, I do not see the point of it - it would require using a tripod in order that the images are perfectly aligned, if that is the case, then a long shutter speed combined with a small aperture would achieve the same, and without any artefacts due to the slight changes in focal length seen in many lenses when refocused.

      I thi

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Sooner or later all of those objections will be eliminated. The one that will hold on longest is that film grain is random and that produces a final look that you can't get from digital without a comparative loss of quality until you are shooting at multiples of film's maximum resolution, and then you only get it by processing before printing.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        This article looks more at the non-resolution aspects of film:

        http://www.twinlenslife.com/2009/05/digital-vs-film-real-deal-nikon-d300-vs.html [twinlenslife.com]

        Thing is, to me that article shows that there's little difference between film and digital for the average user. His film images may be slightly better in extreme conditions, but I think I paid $32 for my SDHC card which holds 4,000 stills... even if I never delete them and reuse it, that's the equivalent of maybe $1,000 of film. To me that's a much bigger benefit that a slight improvement in quality when the scene is heavily backlit, and it appears that 99% of the world agrees with me.

        In addition, some of

        • Actually reading this article made me want to dump the digital and try the film based again. His $5000 digital loses badly to a $289 Ebay camera. Quality is only compared if your images are truly disposable like vacation photos that you glance at for a a second and move on to the next one. In every one of his examples film had better gradient, amazingly more detail, better shadows, etc.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      It marks one of the first points where photography began to move away from chemical reactions on emulsions to light being recorded digitally.

      Complete nonsense. Do you not even pay attention to the equipment they were using to accomplish this task?

      TV cameras have been fully electronic from the very beginning, in the 1930's. No film required. They weren't digital, but were soon being recorded to tape.

      Consumer video cameras were also available long before digital cameras, providing instant development, an L

  • The interesting thing is that despite the various examples present in history, just as many companies, if not more, still cling to the entrenched mindset instead of attempting to innovate. Heck, look at Blockbuster, now filing for bankruptcy. My theory is that once people have a lot of money, they're afraid to experiment with it, even if that will bring in more money. So instead they cling to old ways of thinking and ultimately lose in the long run. Engineering types aren't exactly striking gold with th
  • A camera not cobbled together from cannibalized parts would likely manage to save the image in less than 23 seconds, or transmit it over wire/radio to a remote printer. It wouldn't have been a pocket gadget for a mainstream tourist in 1975, but think of NASA/spies/hazardous environments and similar applications where you can not conveniently reload film and money is not an object. Or even mega rich. They can always somehow justify possessing a unique gadget no matter how useless it is.

    • by Isaac-1 (233099) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @06:59AM (#33402274)

      Slashdot needs some perspective, more importantly needs people that remember 1975, this was 3 to 4 years before the first true home VCR's hit the market, and about 5 years before the first home color video cameras for those VCR's each with a price tag starting at over $1,000 and weighed in together at a weight that would earn an overweight penalty for modern airline luggage weight limits. Kodak cameras in this time period were being driven by a need to compete for what the masses wanted, namely small and instant, with little regard to quality, the 110 instamatic with its easy to load cartridge film was quickly becoming a household norm, and this was only a year before Kodak introduced its own doomed line of instant cameras (recalled after Kodak lost its lawsuit with Polaroid a few years later).

      • by Fulminata (999320)
        Ah, the Kodak Land Camera. We had one of those. I remember my dad receiving a check as part of Kodak's settlement with it's customers following the loss of the suit with Polaroid. I also remember hoarding the film to the point that it went bad and the last few pictures we took with it didn't turn out well.
  • I mean it, has anyone ever used those composite video cables that come with so many digital cameras to display a picture on a TV?

    • by multipartmixed (163409) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @07:52AM (#33402444) Homepage

      Yes. Before I had a CD burner or a DVD player, I did that regularly. My old Kodak 2 megapixel camera could actually do a slideshow.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mobby_6kl (668092)

        I still do that whenever I'm traveling - it's pretty nice to be able to show my grandparents I took over the day on their large-ish TV rather than my 12" Thinkpad or the camera screen. They do have a DVD player nowadays, but still why bother with burning the photos to the DVD unless I want them to keep it? The video-out on my Panasonic works very well for a slideshow.

    • No, but I have used my TV's USB port to display jpeg's from a stick. Easy and quick way to show "slides" to the family without having half a dozen people trying to crowd out my laptop.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      > I mean it, has anyone ever used those composite video cables that come with so many digital cameras to display a picture on a TV?

      I wish I had that with me on my last Vacation. I took so many
      pictures my camera filled up and we decided to take the iPad
      instead of the netbook. So I couldn't just dump the contents
      of the camera onto the netbook like the previous year.

      That cable would have helped me sort out the wheat from the chaff.
      You can't really do that with the tiny little screen on the camera
      itself. ...

  • by shoppa (464619) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @06:45AM (#33402228)

    This sounds morally equivalent to ham radio SSTVin terms of speed (or lack of) and technique... and hams had been doing SSTV snce the 1960's.

  • This isn't really news, but it's a great insight on why Kodak became as irrelevant as it is today. They were already inventing a lot of the technology for digital photography as early as the 70s, but they made a terrible business decision not to expand their traditional offerings, thinking film would last forever. They were very wrong, they failed to innovate and adapt fast enough to a changing market and within a couple of decades they were superseded by those who were prepared to embrace the new technolog
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tomhath (637240)

      but they made a terrible business decision not to expand their traditional offerings, thinking film would last forever

      No, they saw digital coming, and they tried to get on board. The problem they faced was that every camera manufacturer saw the same thing and all were rushing to bring digital cameras to the market. Kodak was never really a camera company, their main business was film and chemicals; they knew there was nothing they could do to stop that business line from shrinking as digital cameras became available to the masses. Kodak has a share of the digital camera market but they have to compete with companies known

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by airfoobar (1853132)
        TechDirt's Mike Masnick did a wonderful job explaining why you are wrong: http://www.techdirt.com/blog/entrepreneurs/articles/20100808/00561810539.shtml [techdirt.com]

        They did way too little, way too late. They had a very powerful brand, but they failed to reinvent themselves in the consumers' eyes because they didn't see digital as a big enough threat to their existing business.
      • by sphealey (2855)

        > Kodak has a share of the digital camera market but they have to compete with
        > companies known to consumers as camera manufacturers such as Canon and Nikon.

        Of course they could have bought or merged with, say, Minolta, a company with an established brand and excellent camera technology that was always playing third fiddle behind Nikon and Leica [1] and put their digital efforts behind the combination.

        sPh

        [1] Minolta actually built the Rx series of SLRs for Leica which then charged 3x the price that Mi

  • Why Kodak failed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snsh (968808) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @07:29AM (#33402348)
    When I was an intern working at Eastman Kodak a VP told us that at around 1980, Kodak had a billion dollars to invest in research and the choice was between digital imaging and instant photography. They chose instant photography.

    By 1990 Kodak spent another billion dollars just on lawyers fighting Polaroid over patents.
    • by Ilgaz (86384) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @08:33AM (#33402654) Homepage

      Perhaps you know, Apple did one of the first digital cameras in days when they were really in bad shape (no SJobs).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_QuickTake [wikipedia.org]

      They got burned too. It was openly joked about. Kodak could have spent billion dollars but they had some amazing revenue to cover it. Apple didn't. It is more like MS, they don't bother whether XBox loses money or Silverlight is considered as a joke, they can always cover it. They (and Google) can always gamble.

      • by jcenters (570494)
        One of my high school teachers, a fairly forward-minded guy, had one of those Apple cameras. It was AWFUL. The photos were extremely washed out, and the color gamut was all messed up. Anyone unfortunate to be in the frame would up looking like a vampire, with washed out skin tones and red eyes.
  • 'Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV?'

    And yet they still tried selling those stupid PhotoCD players to people.

  • We already had "slow-scan tv recorders [wikipedia.org]" back in 1972 in Popular Science magazine. You could record a single image on an audio tape cassette in about 20 seconds. And as you can see from the article, it's been around since 1960
  • Those guys did well to even think of the idea in 1975. At around the same time the film "The Man Who Fell To Earth" portrayed the future of photography as instant, but still using film. Even those whose job is new ideas have a hard time making the leap to a whole different technology to solve an apparently solved problem in a completely new way.
  • When the team of technicians presented the camera to Kodak audiences they of course heard a barrage of curious questions:

    Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV? How would you store these images? What does an electronic photo album look like? When would this type of approach be available to the consumer?

    That's the problem with huge companies, people try to look smart by knocking down an idea, or only see a finished product, instead of acknowledging the

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Well, have to start by knocking down the idea to see where the problems and the challenges are.

      The problem is not in eviscerating the concept but ignoring it completely.

      Management should have realized that this was coming sooner or later. It was just a matter of time. It wasn't a question of "if" it will happen but who would bring it to market and what that would do to Kodak.

  • by Skapare (16644) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @09:42AM (#33403040) Homepage

    That's an old COLOR TV [wikipedia.org] (Sony [wikipedia.org] Trinitron [wikipedia.org]) being fed with a black and white image.

  • Slyvania's 1968 "Color Slide Theater" built a color flying-spot scanner and Kodak Carousel slide changer into a $995 color TV console.

    You could record and synchronize a slide show with the built in audio cassette recorder.

    It eliminated the projection screen and hot, high-intensity, projection lamp.

    Just as suggestively, it introduced the notion of instant - responsive - manual or semi-automatic adjustment of hue, brightness and contrast, a kind of on-the-fly photo editing that never been possible outside the

  • That sort of assemblage was fairly 'obvious' even then, but obviousness never seems to deter US patents. So which features of this process did Kodak patent? If they did, wouldn't that patent now be worth more than Kodak?
  • ...had a kit project to build a "digital" video camera [swtpc.com]. The "MOS sensor" that it used was, as I recall, essentially a DRAM with a transparent cover -- in fact, people were prying the lids off standard DRAM chips to use them as image sensors. (Decades later, I verified that you could detect bit-flips in an erased EPROM when you hit it with a red laser pointer. Forget high-ISO night photography; this was probably somewhere around ISO 0.5.)

    You could then presumably build an interface to load the image into

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