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November 24, 2010

Meet Steve Sasson, inventor of the digital camera


Who knew?

Excerpts from Monica Hesse's front page story in yesterday's Washington Post Style section about this pretty much under the radar innovator follow.


In 1975, as a young engineer who had no interest in photography but had taken a job with Kodak because he heard Rochester was nice, he invented the digital camera [above and below].

"Nobody really knew what we were working on in that lab," Sasson says. "It's not that we were trying to be secretive, it's just that nobody cared. 'Why would anyone want to look at images on a screen? What's the point of an electronic photo album?'"

On a recent morning, Sasson... showed off his 35-year-old creation. It's about the size of a toaster. It could be used to perform biceps curls, but holds only about .01 megapixel. "Sixteen NiCad batteries," Sasson says, pointing to the nickel cadmium batteries through a mess of exposed wires and nubby tabs called potentiometers.... Sasson compares himself to a guy who invented a really good pen, which wouldn't necessarily make that guy a good writer. All of this is to say that the guy who invented the digital camera doesn't really know anything about photography.


The camera was an afterthought, a "filler project" Sasson [above, holding the camera] was asked to look into when not working on his main assignment of building a lens-cleaning machine. Its first image was an impromptu snapshot of a lab technician from down the hall. When it appeared on the television screen a minute later, the white office walls showed up, and so did the technician's black hair. Her face, her clothes and everything else were a muted swamp of gray. The technician looked at the historic photograph of herself on the screen and shrugged. "Needs work," she told him.


Below, a page from the 1978 patent.


Below, the playback device and a TV.


More on the invention here.

Interesting that at the same time Sasson was creating his device in Kodak's Elmgrove Plant in Rochester, New York, Jobs and Wozniak were putting the finishing touches on their Apple I.

One of the 200 Apple I computers built between July 1976 and August 1977, complete in its original packaging, brought $213,000 at a Christie's auction yesterday.

You could look it up.

Wrote Ben Rooney in today's Wall Street Journal, "The lot included a letter from 'Steven Jobs' and the return address on the packaging was his parents' house."

Steve Wozniak was present at the auction; speaking afterwards he said, "I gave them away for free. It was really just an attempt to help people move the world forward."

November 24, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pizza Wallet


Designed by Anat Safran.


Zipper closure; 8" x 6.5".



November 24, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Locative art in the New York Times — "Is that a dagger I see on my iPhone?"

William Gibson's 2007 novel "Spook Country" introduced locative art to the general public (assuming it's the general public that's Gibson's audience, which is probably not the case. No matter.).

Now comes Eduardo Porter of the New York Times, writing in a October 22, 2010 Editorial Notebook feature, about his astonishment at the wonders his iPhone is capable of delivering.

The brief essay follows.


We’ve been waiting a long time for technology to deliver us an alternative reality, like the future in H.G. Wells’s “Time Machine,” Neo’s Matrix, or the universe of code navigated by the “Neuromancer” hacker, Case. The future has arrived, finally — by the prosaic hand of our cellphones. Chances are it will soon be sponsored by laundry detergent or a fast-food chain.

Just the other day, my iPhone showed me an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art that most people around me didn’t know was there. Looking at the galleries through the phone's camera, I saw a chunk of the Berlin Wall floating before me. There were faces suspended in midair in the museum’s immense atrium. Over the sculpture garden hovered a path through the desert along which illegal immigrants often die.

Other than being the venue, MoMA had nothing to do with the show. The organizers, artists Mark Skwarek from New York and Sander Veenhof from the Netherlands, used a smartphone application called Layar and uploaded the work to be seen at the MoMA galleries’ particular set of coordinates in space. It’s still “there.”

This has specific relevance for artists. Since art is a value judgment — and being in a museum is one of the sure-fire tactics for something to be defined as art — being able to upload your stuff into the galleries of top modern art museums in the country without asking permission must be a handy trick.

Yet I wonder what this could do to our everyday experience. Just as I downloaded a filter onto my iPhone to find new art on MoMA’s walls, why couldn’t I overlay alternate skins on everything else? Maybe replace the building outside my window with a seascape? Or hang a disco ball from the subway car on my way home?

It can’t be long before some entrepreneur installs the technology on a pair of wraparound shades, with earplugs for sound. We could choose realities to drape over the world on iTunes. The bucolic will change cityscapes to forests; fast-food devotees will roam a world where everyone is lithe. I find this prospect unsettling. Right now, this may have the fun, innocuous feeling of Wii. But what will so many alternative realities do to the one in which we live?

November 24, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Goldfish Bath Plug


"No fish were harmed in the making of this stopper."

Fits any tub.


November 24, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wayforward Machine: Send this to the future


Wrote Joe Peach, "Why would you need this when there are  other 'to-do' list sites? I can think of one good reason: I get a great idea, but I'm not sure I'll think of it later if I get busy or distracted now. I just email myself to remind myself a month later! Then it will still be a great idea — or just another crazy one."

If Joe Peach says it's worth doing, then it is.

Too bad he's laughing so hard reading the previous sentence that he spit all over his screen.

Sorry, Joe, I just couldn't resist.

November 24, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Analyze this! Psycho-Diagnostik Coasters


"Analyze your friends by Rorschach."

Set of 10.



November 24, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Russian propeller-powered sled


"Here is the work of some fanatic designer from Kirov. It's a propeller-powered sled. This particular construction appeared to be pretty successful


because it picks up rather high speed for such a simple means of transport, easily copes with deep snow, and is eventually rather efficient,


which allows trips for long distances."

[via English Russia]

November 24, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Putty Eats Magnet

Videre est credere.

From the website:


Screen shot 20efgrbnm10-11-23 at 7.09.03 PM

Made with micron-sized iron-based particles distributed throughout, this moldable putty takes on the properties of a magnet itself when placed in close contact with the included neodymium iron boron magnet.

Put it near the magnet and within five seconds, the putty will stretch itself out to reach the magnet, almost as if it were alive.

Press the magnet into it and the whole piece of putty becomes magnetic, able to lift tacks and paperclips on its own after charging in a magnetic field.




November 24, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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