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"...we had no idea…"
August 29, 2010 6:27 PM   Subscribe

The contraption was "created from a mishmash of lenses and computer parts and an old Super 8 movie camera." It was the size of a toaster, 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" and took 23 seconds to record an image to cassette tape. But when Steve Sasson and his team of Kodak technicians presented the world's first digital camera to the public in 1975, they were asked: 'Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV?'

Steve Sasson (wikipedia)
posted by zarq (56 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
If only they knew quite how much that technology would change the world we live in.
posted by wierdo at 6:32 PM on August 29, 2010


A comment on the New York Times article linked above points out that the story of Mr. Sasson's invention was a segment within "The Transformation Age", a documentary. (That last link goes directly to an .mov file.)
posted by zarq at 6:33 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


If only they knew quite how much that technology would change the world we live in.

What amazes me is that they had a fantastic idea, but technology and our understanding hadn't yet advanced enough to create an infrastructure to support it.
posted by zarq at 6:35 PM on August 29, 2010


It's so funny that that statement was made in my lifetime, though it seems so foreign. And it could have been made by some people 10 years (or more after the fact).*

Yet to our ears it sounds like "Why would people want to watch radio?" or "why would you see a movie when you could go to a play?" (I know that's extreme parody, but really, only just.)

* When I did a half-term in London, my final project was to do a "Time Out" style magazine full of reviews and articles from our classes time there. It was a huge deal for me to be able to borrow a laptop (in 1996) and even then, I can't believe that all the pictures in the issue were scanned in after I got them developed at home.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:38 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's amazing how often computer technology is invented before the infrastructure is in place the support it. The computer itself, by Babbage, in the 19th century. Hypertext in 1945 by Vannevar Bush (or in the 60s by Ted Nelson), the mouse and window interface by Xerox in the 70s, and so on.

The industry is littered with companies that failed because they introduced ideas too soon -- General Magic is a fairly recent one -- they pretty much nailed the concepts iphone and google apps, but the technology just wasn't there yet.
posted by empath at 6:47 PM on August 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


What amazes me is that they had a fantastic idea, but technology and our understanding hadn't yet advanced enough to create an infrastructure to support it.

Kodak had a well-entrenched business based on physical film and the chemicals and other materials in support of it. Why would their management want to explore an idea which would undermine their entire business?

Sort of like portable MP3 players. Sony would never have developed such a unit on their own, and indeed they did not develop the first ones - because it would mean the death of their blank media business.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:47 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember attending a Toronto astronomy club meeting where a guy gave a presentation about his experiences taking pictures with CCDs. It was around the time the Cookbook Camera was published. I just remember that a lot of it went over my head and I was astounded to find out that the thing had to be cooled with a water pump.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:50 PM on August 29, 2010


Large companies seem to have sight that ends at the edge of their campus.

It's impressive that this was built at all!
posted by underflow at 6:50 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yet to our ears it sounds like "Why would people want to watch radio?" or "why would you see a movie when you could go to a play?" (I know that's extreme parody, but really, only just.)

Well, to be fair, hardly anyone does want to look at their pictures on the TV. It's just a lack of imagination about the future of technology.

I had similar arguments with friends about mp3s when napster and winamp first came out. My friends would say that MP3s were never going to replace CDs, because why would you spend 3-4 hours looking for and downloading an album over dialup when you can just buy the cd or get a copy from a friend. This was, of course, pre-broadband, pre-google, and pre-iTunes, when napster and altavista were your only ways of searching for songs online.

This is why I think people in copyright arguments online are often so dismissive of the arguments from traditional 'content providers' about drm and suing people for downloading stuff. You ARE going to get fiber to the home eventually. Everyone will have 100 meg connections, and then eventually 1 gig connections and 10 gig connections. You'll eventually be able to download every song ever written in a few minutes and carry it around on a thumb drive.

To keep it back to the topic at hand. Not only will everyone have a digital camera, but eventually, everyone will be able to record and store every moment of their lives, and everyone will have every moment of their lives recorded, stored and indexed somewhere, whether they like it or not. When things like that become essentially free, then it will happen, and no amount of legislation and hand-wringing will be able to stop it. You should, right now, be prepared to live in a surveillance society, a privacy-less society, where everybody knows everything about everyone else.

I think people today are still unrealistic about how computer technology is going to transform society, even after it's already transformed society so much.
posted by empath at 6:58 PM on August 29, 2010 [9 favorites]



I read this as the 'contraception,' and was like, damn....
posted by bukharin at 7:01 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll give another example -- if someone had asked you, in 1980, which would have been the more world-changing invention -- the ability to make video-phone calls, or the ability to send a text message to anybody, at any time, anywhere, most people probably would have said video-phone calls, because I think it seemed like a more difficult problem.

But text messages, blackberries, and instant messages have completely transformed the way people relate to each other, and live and work -- because of the nature of those services, everyone is available to everyone at all times. People are never 'off the clock', conversations with friends never stop, they only pause. You never have to wonder what anybody would think of something for more than a few moments. Eventually, there will be a revolution fought entirely with text messages.

Video calls, on the other hand, are just normal phone calls plus video. When you're on a video call, you're essentially back to where you were in the 1960s, stuck in one place, making a phone call, while unable to do anything else. And anyway the real killer app is not looking at the person you are talking to, but seeing what the person you are talking to is seeing.
posted by empath at 7:06 PM on August 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


You'll eventually be able to download every song ever written in a few minutes and carry it around on a thumb drive.

So, I didn't break the law, but a friend of a friend torrented, get this, Everything that DJ Shadow has ever done and everything he sampled aanndd remixes of his material aaaannnnndddd some mistaken stuff that I like anyway. It can be carried around inside of a cellular phone.

No derail, I had no idea the digital camera existed in '75.
posted by fuq at 7:10 PM on August 29, 2010


Kodak had a well-entrenched business based on physical film and the chemicals and other materials in support of it. Why would their management want to explore an idea which would undermine their entire business?

It's my impression that Kodak have worked quite hard over the years to stay ahead of the curve, and have in many ways lived by the aphorism "The best way to anticipate the future is to invent it". Although Kodak's consumer digital cameras are pretty pedestrian, Kodak are nonetheless very well respected as a manufacturer of high-end digital image sensors - for example, the sensor in the Leica M8 is made by Kodak.

In fact, two years prior to the building of this prototype digital camera, Kodak had already anticipated the importance of video-tape recording and purchased Spin Physics, a major manufacturer of magnetic tape playback & recording heads (qv)
posted by kcds at 7:11 PM on August 29, 2010 [4 favorites]




This was, of course, pre-broadband, pre-google, and pre-iTunes, when napster and altavista were your only ways of searching for songs online.

Heh. I was downloading mp3's from Usenet waaaay before either of those services were invented.

Your point is well taken, though. :)
posted by zarq at 7:13 PM on August 29, 2010


It's amazing how often computer technology is invented before the infrastructure is in place the support it.

It's not really so amazing that the infrastructure comes after the idea. Without the idea, how would you know what to build? I mean, the intestate highway system wasn't built in the 1850s in the hope that there might someday be a use for it.
posted by longsleeves at 7:29 PM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I too agree that we shouldn't rag on people for not understanding the implications of this in 75. I mean, like empath said they were asking the right question at the time -- how do you use/view these photos? The Amiga came out in 85 and the VGA adapter in 87; prior to those I would argue that the notion of a photo-realistic image on a home computer would have sounded absurd and impractical. And similarly for printers -- the HP PaintJet came out in 87 and was one of the earliest examples of something that could print a photo-realistic color image. So yeah, 75 was about ten years before you could even begin to have an inkling of how Earth-shattering digital photography could turn out to be to the average person.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:54 PM on August 29, 2010


If only they knew quite how much that technology would change the world we live in.

The linked wikipedia article claims that Steve Sasson is still alive, I think he knows exactly what he created.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:55 PM on August 29, 2010


Well, to be fair, hardly anyone does want to look at their pictures on the TV.

Of course they do. It's just that the TV that they use is attached to their computer.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:02 PM on August 29, 2010


> People are never 'off the clock', conversations with friends never stop, they only pause.

I often wonder if this trend will continue to accelerate until we're all the Borg, or if there will ever be a backlash wherein some people grow tired of unremitting communication and connectivity. I have a few friends and relatives who have made a conscious choice to drop off the grid to varying extents, but all of them pre-date the internet. For anyone born in the past fifteen years, this sort of thing is normal and there's no 'before' to compare it to, favourably or otherwise.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:03 PM on August 29, 2010


As far as technology coming out before people knew they wanted it, I remember when the first digital audio recorders were released. They used video tape to record the signal. If I remember correctly, the one model I researched at the time recorded 6 tracks of audio onto one tape, which were switchable a la the parallel tracks on old 8-track tapes. The result was you could store 6 hours of digital audio on a single tape. They were quite ahead of their time, priced way beyond the normal home component market, and disappeared rather quickly as technology like DAT took over.
posted by hippybear at 8:15 PM on August 29, 2010


It bears mentioning that the photo of the boy and the dog in the NYT piece is perhaps among mankind's most adorable achievements.
posted by HotPants at 8:17 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not really so amazing that the infrastructure comes after the idea. Without the idea, how would you know what to build? I mean, the intestate highway system wasn't built in the 1850s in the hope that there might someday be a use for it.

Ditto the power grid, telephone networks, railroads ...

I think the difference between most of those things and modern communications infrastructure, though, is that we've come up with a system (the Internet) that is adaptable to just about any application you can dream of for the foreseeable future. Provided you can get enough bandwidth.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:33 PM on August 29, 2010


I too agree that we shouldn't rag on people for not understanding the implications of this in 75.

I disagree. The better questions would have been, "How do we make this happen?" That's the road they took at Xerox PARC. They knew they couldn't put a high-density graphics display with a fast network on everyone's desk in the early 70's, but they developed the technology anyway, so they could take advantage of it when it finally was possible.

The irony, of course, is that Xerox Corporate never followed through, but all the work PARC did made it out to consumers via the Macintosh and other hardware and software developers. Allen Kay's Dynabook, dating from the late 60s, is only approaching feasibility now, but if people hadn't been thinking about the concepts and the infrastructure then, we'd be even further away.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:11 PM on August 29, 2010


Huh. Interesting. Was it really the first though? Someone else might have come up with the same idea. After all, analog electronic cameras (for TV) had existed for decades.

---
It's amazing how often computer technology is invented before the infrastructure is in place the support it.
They had all the infrastructure they needed. A camera and a playback device that hooked up to your TV. You would have been able to copy the tapes with a regular cassette player (Although the signal would degrade over time, but they could have included ECC).

Not only that, Sony came out with the first Mavica just 6 years later. Except it was completely analog.
This is why I think people in copyright arguments online are often so dismissive of the arguments from traditional 'content providers' about drm and suing people for downloading stuff. You ARE going to get fiber to the home eventually. Everyone will have 100 meg connections, and then eventually 1 gig connections and 10 gig connections. You'll eventually be able to download every song ever written in a few minutes and carry it around on a thumb drive.
Of course if google and verizon get their way, we'll all still be on DSL with 10 mbps (at max) with an 'extra network' with premium content from pre-selected providers. No reason to worry about piracy!
It's my impression that Kodak have worked quite hard over the years to stay ahead of the curve, and have in many ways lived by the aphorism "The best way to anticipate the future is to invent it". Although Kodak's consumer digital cameras are pretty pedestrian
The one of the first ever digital cameras available for sale (sold to photojournalists) was made by Kodak.
posted by delmoi at 9:25 PM on August 29, 2010


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

You know, I think they were right about that. Who views pictures on a TV? For simply looking at an image, paper is a million times better than a TV. It's not until you can modify the image that the digital solution becomes better than film and paper.

It was the advent of cheap and powerful PCs that made digital photography take off. Their massive computational power, combined with their far superior displays, makes it trivial to view, shuffle, sort and modify the image data. That's what makes a modern digital camera worthwhile.

Without computers, analog cameras are simply better.
posted by Malor at 9:42 PM on August 29, 2010


the intestate highway system

God I'd hate to be that probate judge
posted by thesmophoron at 9:57 PM on August 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


In 1989 for a class I got to use a Canon Xap Shot, an analog electronic camera. It felt really futuristic to use, as it stored images on an analog video floppy disk, but ultimately all you could do is show the photos on your TV, or capture them to a computer with a video capture card. Once on the computer, the images were a lot more useful, even though they were only 320x200 and didn't look so great.
posted by zsazsa at 10:30 PM on August 29, 2010


Malor: “You know, I think they were right about that.”

That was my first reaction, too, actually, although I might go in a different direction.

TVs during the 70s were great at the time, I'm sure – suddenly everyone can see the picture in color! And every show is taking advantage of this newfound, colorful medium! – but anyone with perspective also knew that they were still just washed-out little boxes that produced, at best, a narrow color spectrum with flat basic tones. There was no definition in the image whatsoever, no clarity at all; it only made sense to watch shows because then the lack of definition or clarity almost made sense, since you were watching the action rather than picking out features or looking at details. If you were doing those latter things, the television available in the 1970s was hideous.

Hell, that's the TV we all had until very, very recently. Honestly, I now can't even grok how anybody could ever watch a cathode ray tube television for more than thirty seconds at a time – it strains your eyes, the image is fundamentally blurry at a certain level, and the picture is just glaring and bad. I would never, never want to look at photographs on that medium. It's actually kind of odd that, for most of the 2000s, almost all of us had far better screens for our computers than we did for our televisions.

But the interesting thing that adds to this, I think, is that these are practical concerns. The average person was thinking of TV as it was: CRT, probably small, with a round screen that jutted out at the viewer like a beach ball, no image quality, static, fuzz, all sorts of little ticks and problems. The average viewer wasn't thinking about the television in terms of the possibilities or in terms of the room for development. I'm sure that, in contrast, when Steve Sasson looked at a television, he saw the conceptual fact of it: "here's a way to project color images onto a screen electronically, and change them at will! Think of all the things we could do with that!" And really, he was right.
posted by koeselitz at 11:03 PM on August 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't experience the whole "never off the clock" thing because I have well-defined boundaries. If I don't feel like something needs an immediate response, I don't respond, and if somebody finds that offensive, they're obviously a shitty friend that you're better without and whose inability to respect boundaries is going to cause them to do something far worse at some point.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:46 AM on August 30, 2010


Interesting post.

I have a former colleague who liked to rant about how film took better photos than digital cameras as recently as last year. Then again, I still think music on vinyl can offer an experience that mp3s can't. But I can't imagine every going back to the bad old days of having to pay (actual money!) to have my film developed, and not being to edit and/or delete my snaps on the fly.

Some people are really afraid of change.
posted by bardic at 3:02 AM on August 30, 2010


I like Sasson's salon hair care products, too.
posted by bz at 3:11 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would argue that, at a reasonable price point, film cameras still produces better images than digital. A high-end DSLR rivals film, but costs several thousand dollars and requires big fast computers, high-end printers and expensive software to display the images to their potential.

Digital pictures are not free, by the way, not even at the consumer snapshot level. You still need expensive computers to view and edit them, and the damn computers go obsolete every couple years. Don't get me wrong, digital imaging's advantages are massive, but film still has a role to play.

And Kodak continues to improve silver-based film technology - they raised the bar with the Ektar line of color negative films just last year.
posted by tommyD at 4:45 AM on August 30, 2010


pre-broadband, pre-google, and pre-iTunes, when napster and altavista were your only ways of searching for songs online.
Heh. I was downloading mp3's from Usenet waaaay before either of those services were invented.


MP3s didn't become popular until 96/97, and pre-Napster you had better bets of getting stuff off IRC, though Usenet was OK for collections.

As the resident HiSTORiAN its my duty to keep the facts straight for the youngin's that have no direct knowledge of the Golden Age.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:49 AM on August 30, 2010


It looks like 2-XL's little brother!
posted by mintcake! at 5:50 AM on August 30, 2010


Kodak's digital camera story is an interesting one. They were way ahead of everyone but spent a lot of development effort on professional cameras (based on Nikon and Canon film SLRs) and gave consumer models short shrift. That proved costly in the long run as film declined faster than they had expected (it was hugely profitable, so perhaps this is understandable). Once Canon and Nikon came out with their own DSLRs, Kodak's professional line was doomed. They still manufacture sensors for others, though.

Kodak went from the largest employer here in Rochester to an also-ran in a few short years. The local economy has never recovered. It's not just the loss of Kodak jobs, the company supported a large array of small companies that supplied it. The plant where the first digital camera was developed (Kodak Apparatus Division) is now an office park, Kodak having moved the few surviving bits of their business back into Kodak Park. And to lower their tax burden, Kodak has imploded a number of unused buildings in Kodak Park. The implosions attracted large crowds of onlookers, many of them former Kodak workers.

It used to be everyone in Rochester had at least one relative who worked for Kodak; those days are long gone.
posted by tommasz at 6:11 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is why I think people in copyright arguments online are often so dismissive of the arguments from traditional 'content providers' about drm and suing people for downloading stuff. You ARE going to get fiber to the home eventually. Everyone will have 100 meg connections, and then eventually 1 gig connections and 10 gig connections. You'll eventually be able to download every song ever written in a few minutes and carry it around on a thumb drive.

Does anybody really argue that it's OK from a position of "but the internet is so slow and thumb drives are so small"? I've never seen this.
posted by DU at 7:05 AM on August 30, 2010


Some people are really afraid of change.

Or, perhaps they view the change simply as not a positive change, as far as their values are concerned. Some people value the quality of the intended product (the image) more than they value the many conveniences digital provides. It could be very easily be argued that digital took over not because the image quality was better, but, rather, because it was far more convenient than film. The same could be argued for digital audio.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:06 AM on August 30, 2010


The average viewer wasn't thinking about the television in terms of the possibilities or in terms of the room for development.

Exactly. I am certain that we'd all be able to build a better future if we thought of the technology around us as a suite of opportunities AS WELL AS a sweet set of media consumption boxes, instead of only the latter.
posted by fake at 7:17 AM on August 30, 2010


empath wrote: "Well, to be fair, hardly anyone does want to look at their pictures on the TV. It's just a lack of imagination about the future of technology."

Yeah, it's just something just about everyone who has a digital camera and a TV set capable of viewing pictures from a card or USB stick does. It's the 21st century slide show. So I guess not everyone, just the set who would have subjected their friends to Kodachrome slides in the 70s.

fuq wrote: "It can be carried around inside of a cellular phone. "

Yeah, it still amazes me that my phone can hold over a thousand hours of reasonably good quality music in the built in memory alone, nevermind extra memory cards. And it's relatively cheap, as far as smartphones go. This year's model will supposedly have half again as much internal storage capacity. Seven years ago a hard drive that size would have cost more than the phone.

And to relate it to the topic, the phone (of course) has a built in digital camera, and also can display its pictures on a TV. All this stuff that 40 years ago was barely invented yet can now be had for less than 2/3rds the cost of Atari 2600 when it was released.
posted by wierdo at 7:27 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a little suspicious that everyone looked at it and said, "eh, but who would ever want one?" Somebody at Kodak had to have said: Print news organizations. In the 70s, black-and-white newspapers were still the hotness, and photos were either duplicated and shipped or printed and then faxed over the wires. This camera, with its audio-bandwidth recording of photos, would have opened up news organizations to the ability to create, transmit, duplicate, and print photos in a matter of minutes. 26 seconds per photo, without an intermediate "print" step? That's lightning-fast compared to older methods of image data transfers, and probably only a generation or two away from superceding television-quality photos. I can't imagine that nobody at Kodak looked at this and didn't realize this; or, as delmoi said, they got into it 15 years later with the DCS100, but they had the beginnings of it back when it would have probably had a bigger impact.

I'll add: Camera of the year 2000!, designed by Zeiss in the 60s, and contains, in one body, the ability to take both photos and movies, and get instant prints. Little did he know that in the year 2000, a camera that takes both photos and movies would be a common telephone accessory rather than a standalone piece of technology.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:59 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


bz: “I like Sasson's salon hair care products, too.”

They are very good, but they are no match for the brilliant scientists employed by the Garnier Laboratoire.
posted by koeselitz at 8:25 AM on August 30, 2010


Yeah, it still amazes me that my phone can hold over a thousand hours of reasonably good quality music in the built in memory alone, nevermind extra memory cards. And it's relatively cheap, as far as smartphones go.

My first hard drive was a 20mb hardcard in 1986 that fit into a 16-bit ISA slot, cost a few hundred dollars and was more than a foot long.

The 8gb microSD card in my phone (which currently holds about 30 albums and dozens of photos, ebooks and documents,) was $6 on Amazon last year. It's 15mm long.

We've come a long way, baby. :)
posted by zarq at 8:27 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a few friends and relatives who have made a conscious choice to drop off the grid to varying extents, but all of them pre-date the internet. For anyone born in the past fifteen years, this sort of thing is normal and there's no 'before' to compare it to, favourably or otherwise.

So far (but not for much longer) I've lived more of my life in the time predating the internet than after it, so there is definitely some nostalgia there, and a not-entirely-incorrect sense that the world was less complicated then (though of course that sense is flawed insofar as it's colored by nostalgia). At the same time, daily life without the technological changes that have taken place in the last 20 years is unimaginable to me now.
posted by blucevalo at 8:44 AM on August 30, 2010


Hell, that's the TV we all had until very, very recently. Honestly, I now can't even grok how anybody could ever watch a cathode ray tube television for more than thirty seconds at a time – it strains your eyes, the image is fundamentally blurry at a certain level, and the picture is just glaring and bad.

Huh? I still have a CRT TV, one I've had for probably 10 years or so. It's fine for watching TV. I don't know what you're going on about.
posted by delmoi at 8:53 AM on August 30, 2010


I don't know what you're going on about.

Think: High Definition Picture.

I agree that CRT is perfectly good, though.
posted by zarq at 8:58 AM on August 30, 2010


delmoi wrote: "Huh? I still have a CRT TV, one I've had for probably 10 years or so. It's fine for watching TV. I don't know what you're going on about."

I've heard that a lot from people who don't have great eyesight. ;)
posted by wierdo at 9:07 AM on August 30, 2010


delmoi: “Huh? I still have a CRT TV, one I've had for probably 10 years or so. It's fine for watching TV. I don't know what you're going on about.”

I know, right? CRT is not really that bad. But ever since my Playstation-loving roommates got this 60-inch 1080p HD jobbie six months ago, it's like a different world. Seriously, it's astounding; you can stop the video and go up to the screen and pick out tiny stuff. It's such a different experience watching it that I don't think anybody could force me to go back to CRT. Yesterday I watched Sword of Doom, and the images in that movie were just so gorgeous. At this point, both of my monitors at work are LCD flat panels (which are cheap as hell now) and the only TV I watch is that huge five-foot plasma HD thing.

I don't think I'm the only one who wonders about CRTs, either. Through some stuff that happened I recently acquired a not-that-old (2001) large-screen CRT television – it's 36 inches, three feet across – and I can't seem to find anybody to buy it for less than fifty bucks or so. Now that you can get bigger screens with much nicer pictures for a few hundred, nobody seems willing to buy a big-screen TV that isn't HD.
posted by koeselitz at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2010


buy it for more than fifty bucks or so, I mean
posted by koeselitz at 9:25 AM on August 30, 2010


I got one of the last generation of standard-def, widescreen, flat-front CRT TVs. It's remarkably nicer than the 1984 Sharp Linytron it replaced, but heavier, fuzzier, and a little smaller than the LCD HDTV that cost me the same a mere three years later.

And weren't there earlier digital cameras placed on NASA probes? I remember Carl Sagan going on about how amazing they were, even though the information is sent back in a sixteen-color monochrome dot matrix.
posted by maus at 10:34 AM on August 30, 2010


CRTs are actually better in some respects than the technology that replaced them. An HD CRT will have better black levels, and won't have wonky scaling for SD content. It also won't have as much of the burn problems as a plasma would. Nor the rainbow issues that a DLP will have.

The main issue is that a 30 inch CRT weighs more than a 55 inch LCD. While I'd bet that an HD CRT would match the quality of HD LCD at the same size, you can easily get LCDs at sizes no CRT can match.
posted by zabuni at 12:27 PM on August 30, 2010


zabuni: “An HD CRT will have better black levels, and won't have wonky scaling for SD content. It also won't have as much of the burn problems as a plasma would. Nor the rainbow issues that a DLP will have.”

HD CRT? I had not known such a thing was possible. Interesting.
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on August 30, 2010


The first HDTVs were all CRT, actually. And you can still buy new CRT HDTVs, if you wish.
posted by hippybear at 1:18 PM on August 30, 2010


Not that much of a lag, really.

Consider this:
1834 - Fox Talbot makes the first negative.
1884 - George Eastman patents roll film.
1900 - Kodak mass markets the Brownie camera.
posted by warbaby at 4:53 PM on August 30, 2010


You wanna' see HD in amazing color and contrast watch it on a Sony BVM series CRT. Yeah, it's only 20" and it's about 3 feet deep and $9-$15K depending on options but, my-oh-my, the picture makes typical plasma or LCD look lousy.

Check out a telecine or digital intermediate suite and you may be surprised at the continuing reliance on CRT for critical viewing.

Still, Grade 1 CRTs are beginning to cede to high-end LCD.
posted by bz at 6:53 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


HD CRT? I had not known such a thing was possible. Interesting.

Yeah, I just retired mine. Great, but the fact they made it thin to fit in modern stands gave it geometry issues on the corners. Back when I bought it in 2005, it was the best price/performance ratio set I could buy.
posted by zabuni at 9:58 PM on August 30, 2010


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