On the 8th of December 1975 the Kodak engineer Steven Sasson created the first digital image from a CCD sensor. The picture had a resolution of 100×100 pixel and was stored on a cassette.

So, it’s time to say happy birthday today 🙂

The fact that digital photography was invented by Kodak, but not utilized to the fullest potential by its inventor is an often told fairytale. The short story always is: digital killed film and that killed Kodak. Things are not that simple.

Many seem to simply ignore that Kodak not only invented digital photography, but also was looking for ways to turn this into a successful business.

In my opinion they were in a way trapped, because they have been for a very long time not only in the film, but also in the camera business. However, they only produced simple and cheap cameras to fuel sales of their film in the mass market. The more sophisitcated cameras always came from other companies and never from Kodak.

When digital photography started, there was no way to produce cheap cameras due to the high costs involved. Kodak had no experience how do build a DSLR, which would be needed to sell a digital sensor of the early days. Nobody would have bought a simple point and shoot with fixed optics for several thousand dollars.

For a long time, Kodak bought Canon and Nikon film bodies and equipped them with a digital sensor plus the needed electronics in a fancy (read: ugly) attachment at the camera bottom. As a matter of fact, the first DSLRs from the two  big camera makers  came from Kodak. They were also market leader in this area until 1999, when Nikon introduced the D1.

What killed off Kodak was not digital photography per se, but the problem that they simply were not a camera company or a leading silicone manufacturer (production and refinement of sensors). As soon as the camera companies started to produce their own digital cameras, Kodak was doomed.

By the way: Which was the first full frame Nikon DSLR? You might have guessed: Kodak 14n, 14 MP full frame announced at Photokina 2002. Full five years before the Nikon D3.

Once again: Happy birthday to digital photography!