These days, it’s hard to know whether we’re carrying mobiles that can take photos or cameras that can make phone calls. We take it for granted now but there was a time not so long ago when mobile phones were only made to make phone calls. Weird!
The idea for the camera phone has been around for ages with patents dating back the mid 1950s but it took until the development of the CMOS sensor in the 1990s, where technology shrunk enough to contemplate integrating a simple camera into a mobile phone. The actual invention is usually credited to Daniel A. Henderson with his original prototype displayed in the Smithsonian Museum, although Philippe Kahn is sometimes named as the inventor. It’s a fair bet that neither of them imagined a world where we could buy a phone with an 8MP camera.
By the mid 1990s camera phones had started appearing. Japan lead the world with carriers getting in on the act providing new ways to share photos. Apart from the earliest social networking services for sharing images, carriers realised that there was a market coming for sending images easily so MMS was born.
Social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr and YouTube depend on the proliferation of cameras If we don’t shoot photos and videos and then share them these sites become far less interesting and influential.
The camera phone is a great study in how technology influences culture. The digital camera may well be credited with the death of printed photography but it’s the fact that almost everyone is carrying a camera that’s lead to the perhaps the most complete historical record of any time in our history. However that change has been accompanied by challenges.
For starters, everyone carrying a portable camera that’s concealed within their phone has lead to all sorts of privacy issues with the advent of upskirting, amateur paparazzi images of celebrities and more. Companies became paranoid about industrial espionage as staff who were either disgruntled or selling out were able to snap photos of confidential documents or prototypes.
Today, there are literally billions of camera phones on the planet and they are used to capture all sorts of events. The first image of Flight 1549 landing on the Hudson River was shot on a cameraphone from a ferry. News is often reported using footage shot with mobile phones – Saddam Hussein’s execution was recorded and broadcast from a guard’s phone.
As time rolls on, mobile phones are moving from mere communications devices to the tool that we use to capture our the moment by moment events of our lives.
MobileModo is Gizmodo Australia’s look at the rise and rise of the mobile phone, from Bell’s landline to the ubiquitous mobiles of today.