Episode 25: Steve Sasson and the First Digital Camera

This week on episode 25 we go beyond the world of film and bring to you a whole episode talking about the history of digital cameras.  In order to do that, we called upon a man who can speak to the earliest history of digital photography like no other, Steve Sasson.

In 1975, at the age of only 25 while working for Kodak, Steve created the world’s first digital camera.  A crude looking blue and metal box with exposed electronics inside, a lens from a Kodak XL movie camera, and a cassette recorder as it’s data storage device, the camera worked, and set the world on a path that leads us to modern smartphones today.

Not to be outdone, Steve is joined by Robert Shanebrook who we have spoken with before as a 35 year employee of Eastman Kodak, Robert worked in the same lab with Steve and shares with us his memories of that time at Kodak and how things progressed from there.

Also, with us is Todd Gustavson, author and curator at the George Eastman Museum, Todd knows Kodak history like no one else, and has access to a whole collection of the earliest digital cameras.

Finally, Daniel Koons is a Kodak collector and early digital camera enthusiast who has meticulously built the world’s only replica of Steve’s prototype digital camera.  Using high resolution images provided to him by Todd, Daniel was able to recreate the camera with an impressive level of precision and can speak to the inside workings of the camera second only to Steve.

It wouldn’t be an open source podcast without some callers, and this time we have returning guests, Mark Faulkner, Mark Peterson, and Jon Gilchrist who ask their own questions and share their own experiences.

Every episode, the topics we discuss on the Camerosity Podcast are decided entirely upon you, so if you’d like to join us next time, be sure to look out for our next show announcement for Episode 26, which will be recorded on Monday, May 16th!

This Week’s Episode

  • Steve’s Introduction / How He Got Involved / One Man Skunkworks
  • The Camera Didn’t Work Until it Was Done / No One Knew How to Build It
  • It Took 23 Seconds to Store an Image / The Fairchild CCD Was Horrible
  • Why Would Anyone Want to Take Photos This Way? / There Was Never Any Paper on the Starship Enterprise
  • There Needs to be More Pixels / Kodak Wasn’t Ignorant That This Was a Threat to Film
  • When Will Digital Be a Viable Form of Photography? / Moore’s Law / The Boy Dog Wall
  • Portra Was Developed Without Any Constraints from Digital
  • What was the Evolution of the Original Concept to First Prototype? / Was a Modem Ever Considered?
  • Kodak Never Seriously Considered Still Video Photography (Sony Mavica / Canon Xap Shot)
  • Kodak ECAM / Kodak’s Patent Wars of the Early 2000s
  • Daniel Koons Makes an Exact Replica of Steven’s Camera / Please Return to Steve Sasson
  • Despite the Potential of Killing Film, Kodak Did More to Advance Digital Photography Than Almost Anybody
  • It is Harder Today to Shoot a 20 Year Old Digital Camera Than a 100 Year Old Film Camera
  • Kodak Kept Investing in New Film Stocks Into the 2000s Despite the Rise of Digital / After September 2003, Things Started to Change
  • Could You Take the Digital Image Off the Prototype and Into a Computer?
  • Does the Prototype Still Work? / Does Daniel’s Copy Work? / There’s a Raspberry Pi in There!
  • Todd Gustavson is a Curator at the Eastman Museum / Getting Old Digital Cameras Working / UF RAW
  • Digital Camera Collectors / SCSI Cables Are Hard to Find / Underwater Digital Photography
  • KingJim DaVinci Thermal Print Camera / Paul and Mark Are Shopping on eBay During This Podcast!
  • Paul Gets 10 Boxes of Cameras Today / Daniel’s Wish List / The Digicam Craze in Japan
  • Kodak Tech Pan / Modern Equivalent to Technidol
  • What’s Everyone’s Favorite Bulk Film? / Don’t Limit Yourself to B&W, C41 Processing is Easy Too
  • Go See the Collection of Cameras at the George Eastman Museum

Show Notes

If you would like to offer feedback or contact us with questions or ideas for future episodes, please contact us in the Comments Section below, our Camerosity Facebook Group or Instagram page, or email us at [email protected].

The Official Camerosity Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/camerositypodcast

Camerosity Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/camerosity_podcast/

Camerosity Twitter – https://twitter.com/CamerosityPod

Steve Sasson – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Sasson

Robert Shanebrook – http://www.makingkodakfilm.com[email protected]

Daniel Koons (Norman Camera) – https://www.normancamera.com/

Todd Gustavson (George Eastman House) – https://www.eastman.org/

Mark Faulkner – https://thegashaus.com/

Theo Panagopoulos – https://www.photothinking.com/

Paul Rybolt – https://www.ebay.com/usr/paulkris

Anthony Rue – https://www.instagram.com/kino_pravda/ and https://www.facebook.com/VoltaGNV/

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