History of Photography Part 3:

A Digital Photography Timeline

1951 Our digital photography timeline starts with the first video tape recorder which transmitted and received live images from TV cameras by converting the signals into electrical pulses which were known as digital signals. The information was saved to magnetic tape.


1957 The first image in our digital photography timeline was produced on a computer by Russell Kirsch. It was a scanned image of Kirsch's son 

1960s NASA mapped the surface of the moon from information sent back from space probes by converting the analogue signals into digital signals. Spy satellites in many different countries used the same technology for producing images. NASA also started to use computers to improve the quality of images being sent from the moon. Eugene Lally published a description of how to create digital photos using a photo sensor. 

1969 Smith and Boyle invented the CCD (charge-coupled device) which detects the colour and intensity of light and which all digital cameras use. 

Above: A partly disassembled Panasonic Lumix digital camera, with the front lens removed: Photo by Steve Jurvetson

1970 Smith and Boyle built their CCD into a video camera with image quality good enough for TV broadcasting.

1975 Steve Sasson created the first digital camera using the CCD image sensor technology

1981 First consumer camera that did not require film was produced by Sony, the Mavica (Magnetic Video Camera) electronic still camera. The camera produced 720,000-pixel images which were recorded as magnetic impulses on a two-inch floppy disk. Up to 50 images could be stored on a single disc.

1986 Kodak created the first sensor that could detect megapixels. The sensor produced a 5x7 inch digital print

1986 The Fuji DS-1P was produced, the first device to store images digitally but it was never marketed.

1987 Kodak released new products that changed the way images could be stored.

1990 Photo CD system developed by Kodak who claimed that it was "the first worldwide standard for defining color in the digital environment of computers..." 

1990 A leap forward in the digital photography timeline took place with the first dSLR released by Kodak. The Kodak DCS-100 had a 1.3 mega pixel sensor, a Nikon F-3 body, and could store 32 images on 1 MB RAM. It allowed photojournalists to get their images back to their agencies with great speed although it cost around 13,000 USD. 

1990 Logitech produced the Dycam Model 1, a black and white digicam capable of storing 32 compressed images using 1 MB RAM on a 376 x 240 pixel CCD in TIFF format. The camera had to be connected to a computer to transfer the images. 

1994 Apple Quicktake 100 camera was the first to connect to the home computer by a USB cable. It had a 640 x 480 pixel CCD and produced eight images which could be stored in its internal memory. 

1995 The Casio QV-11 with LCD monitor was released. 

1999 The Nikon D1 was released, the first camera on our digital photography timeline to be a serious competitor to the film SLR market. By now, digital cameras had at least 2.0 megapixels. 

2000 The Fuji FinePix S1 Pro was released aimed at non-professional photographers. 

2001 The Canon EOS-1D was released, aimed at the professional market 

2002 Foveon started producing a new type of image sensor. Colour film has three layers, one to record red, one for green and one for blue light; the old digital sensors recorded colour on one single layer of pixels and could only capture part of the colour information available; the new Foveon X3 can capture all of the colour information using three separate layers. 

2003 Canon began producing image sensors capable of detecting 6.3 megapixels 

2003 The Canon Digital Rebel was first produced which allowed non-professional photographers to attach the lenses from their old film cameras. 

2004 Kodak stopped producing film cameras 

2006 Nikon and Canon stopped producing film cameras. Cameras could now detect up to 22 megapixels. Mobile phone had built-in cameras that could sense up to 4 megapixels. 

This digital photography timeline doesn't stop here of course, and the future most surely holds exciting inventions, predominantly I believe in the way we look at images rather than how we capture them. 

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