Steve Sasson, creator of the first digital camera.
The Economist magazine is honoring digital camera inventor Steve Sasson with an Innovation Award this month. Sasson built the first digital camera in 1975 as a 25-year-old freshly hired engineer at Kodak.
Sasson’s prototype digital camera weighed 8.5 pounds and was roughly the size of a toaster. It took 23 seconds to capture a 100 x 100-pixel image and then another 23 seconds to display it on a television. Sasson’s invention was awarded a patent less than three years later. After his highly successful stint as an engineer, Sasson spent the rest of his 35 years at Kodak protecting intellectual property.
“Steven has refocused the face of consumer photography by pioneering the first digital camera,” stated an excerpt from The Economist quoted in today’s Kodak press release. The transition from film to digital was instigated by Sasson, although the company didn’t latch on to the digital revolution until 2001 – several years after competitors like Canon and Nikon had developed consumer digital camera lines.
“It’s remarkable and fitting that an employee at an icon of the ‘old technology’ (Kodak) pioneered the seismic disruption,” said Jeffrey D. Weedman, vice president of external business development at Procter & Gamble Co. and one of the judges of The Economist’s Innovation Awards. “Steve Sasson’s digital camera invention was not a simple improvement on the status quo…ultimately it rendered the existing technology virtually obsolete.”
After its late start in the consumer digital camera market, Kodak has been phasing out its film sector and slashing its global work force dramatically. In another sign that the "existing technology" was on its way out, Kodak discontinued its famous Kodachrome film stock in June 2009.
“Although this transformation has changed much about the way we take pictures, in the end, the challenge is the same,” Sasson told The Economist. “We are dealing with people’s most precious possession, their personal memories.”