Electronics and the Camera Revolution


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The shift to digital imaging was very well described even before it happened. This is illustrated through quotes by Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel.

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Electronics and the Camera Revolution

  1. 1. Electronics and the Camera Revolution
  2. 2. Since the rise of digital imaging, photography has been popularized in a way we could never have imagined.
  3. 3. Virtually everyone can own and use a camera nowadays.
  4. 4. The reason for this revolution seems to be the rapid development of digital technology.
  5. 5. In this slideshow, I will illustrate the effects digital technology has had on the camera industry.
  6. 6. This is done by combining quotes and (digital) images.
  7. 7. The quotes come from Robert C. Noyce, the co-founder of Intel and one of the persons who invented the integrated circuit.
  8. 8. Back in 1977, he wrote an article called ‘Microelectronics’ which was published in Scientific American.
  9. 9. The article is stunning – because those words that were written more than 30 years ago are 100 percent applicable on the digitalization of the camera industry.
  10. 10. Just take a look at the following quotes and illustrations…
  11. 11. “The small size of microelectronic devices has been important in many applications but the major impact of this new technology has been to make electronic functions more reproducible, more reliable and much less expensive.”
  12. 12. “With each technical development costs have decreased and the ever lower costs have promoted a widening range of applications; the quest for technical advances has been widely required by economic competition and compensated by economic reward.”
  13. 13. “Progress since then has been astonishing, even to those of us who have been intimately engaged in the evolving technology.”
  14. 14. “The most striking characteristic of the microelectronic industry has been the persistent and rapid decline in the cost of any electronic function.”
  15. 15. “In this environment of rapid growth in market, rapid technological change and high returns on the successful development of new product or process, a great number of entrepreneurial opportunities have been created and exploited. “
  16. 16. “Time and time again the rapid growth of the market has found existing companies too busy expanding markets or product lines to which they were already committed to explore some of the more speculative new markets or technologies.”
  17. 17. (Instead of moving into digital imaging in the mid 1990s, Polaroid launched the Barbie Cam, thus expanding its existing product line as Noyce stated 20 years earlier, without bearing the camera industry in mind!)
  18. 18. (Polaroid is now resting in peace.)
  19. 19. (Kodak has demolished many of its buildings in Rochester (NY) and went from 140 000 employees in 1988 to around 25 000 in 2008. Unlike Polaroid, the company has survived so far.)
  20. 20. AgfaPhoto was demolished.
  21. 21. “When the integrated circuit was still an infant, Patrick E. Haggerty of Texas Instruments called attention to the increasing pervasiveness of electronics and predicted that electronic techniques would continue to displace other modes of control, reaching into nearly all aspects of our lives…
  22. 22. “… Just such a displacement has been taking place...” 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Number of film and digital cameras sold in the United States (guess which one is digital…)
  23. 23. … primarily because the microelectronics industry has been able to make ever more sophisticated functional elements at ever decreasing costs.”
  24. 24. “Mechanical elements of the calculator and the watch have been displaced by the integrated circuits that are less expensive and offer more flexibility…
  25. 25. … Now the electromechanical functions of vending machines, pinball machines and traffic signals are being displaced.”
  26. 26. (… and later on the mechanics in the camera industry…)
  27. 27. “It has often been said that just as the industrial revolution enabled man to apply and control greater physical power than his own muscle could provide, so electronics has extended his intellectual power.”
  28. 28. The collapse of Polaroid, the rise of mobile cameras, the popularization of photography and the death of established companies…
  29. 29. … All those stunning and surprising events in recent years can be explained and understood by reading an article from 1977!
  30. 30. Without even mentioning or thinking of the camera industry, Noyce describes what has happened, many decades before it has.
  31. 31. So how on earth is this possible?
  32. 32. The answer must be that Noyce truly understood the nature of digital technology and made a very accurate description of it.
  33. 33. When digital technology later on invaded the camera industry, the same thing happened there as in those industries Noyce had described.
  34. 34. This suggests that we can understand both the history and the future in a much better way if we understand the nature of digital technology.
  35. 35. Image attributions
  36. 36. Sources Robert Noyce Microelectronics Scientific American September 1977 Vol 237, No. 3.
  37. 37. Christian Sandström is a PhD student at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. He writes and speaks about disruptive innovation and technological change. www.christiansandstrom.org christian.sandstrom@chalmers.se