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Steven Sasson

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Steven Sasson
Steve Sasson at Photokina 2010
Born (1950-07-04) July 4, 1950 (age 73)
Alma materRensselaer Polytechnic Institute
(BS, 1972; MS, 1973)
Occupation(s)Electrical engineer
Known forInventor of the first self-contained digital camera.

Steven J. Sasson (born July 4, 1950) is an American electrical engineer and the inventor of the self-contained (portable) digital camera. He joined Kodak shortly after his graduation from engineering school and retired from Kodak in 2009.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Sasson was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Ragnhild Tomine (Endresen) and John Vincent Sasson. His mother was Norwegian.[2]

He attended and graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School.[3] He is a 1972 (BS) and 1973 (MS) graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in electrical engineering.[1]

First self-contained digital camera[edit]

Steven Sasson developed a portable, battery operated, self-contained digital camera at Kodak in 1975.[4] It weighed 8 pounds (3.6 kg) and used a Fairchild CCD image sensor having only 100 × 100 pixels (0.01 megapixels). The images were digitally recorded onto a cassette tape, a process that took 23 seconds per image. His camera took images in black-and-white. As he set out on his design project, what he envisioned for the future was a camera without mechanical moving parts (although his device did have moving parts, such as the tape drive).[5]

In 1977, Kodak filed a patent application on some features of Sasson's prototype camera. Titled "electronic still camera", the patent listed Sasson and Gareth Lloyd as co-inventors. The issued patent, U.S. patent number 4,131,919.[6] claims an arrangement that allows the CCD to be read out quickly ("in real time") into a temporary buffer of random-access memory, and then written to storage at the lower speed of the storage device. Most modern digital cameras still use such an arrangement, which was also described in an earlier MIT patent[7] that employed a vidicon sensor rather than a CCD.

His prototype was not the first camera that produced digital images, but it was the first hand-held digital camera.[4] Earlier examples of digital cameras included the Multi Spectral Scanner on Landsat 1,[8] which took digital photographs of Yosemite before it was launched in 1972, as well as cameras used for astronomical photography,[9] experimental devices by Michael Francis Tompsett et al., and the commercial product and hobbyist camera called the Cromemco Cyclops.

Life and career[edit]

His work on digital cameras began in 1975 with a broad assignment from his supervisor at Eastman Kodak Company, Gareth A. Lloyd: to attempt to build an electronic camera using a commercially available charge coupled device (CCD).[10] The resulting camera invention was awarded the U.S. patent number 4,131,919.[6]

Sasson retired from Eastman Kodak Company in 2009, and began working as a consultant in an intellectual property protection role.[10] Sasson joined the University of South Florida Institute for Advanced Discovery & Innovation in 2018, where he is a member and courtesy professor.[11]

On November 17, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama awarded Sasson the National Medal of Technology and Innovation at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.[12] This is the highest honor awarded by the US government to scientists, engineers, and inventors.[13] On September 6, 2012 The Royal Photographic Society awarded Sasson its Progress Medal and Honorary Fellowship "in recognition of any invention, research, publication or other contribution that has resulted in an important advance in the scientific or technological development of photography or imaging in the widest sense."[14]

Leica Camera AG honored Sasson by presenting to him a limited edition 18-megapixel Leica M9 Titanium camera at the Photokina 2010 trade show event.[15]

Sasson was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011, and later elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2018.[16]



  1. ^ a b "The Rediff Interview/Steven J Sasson, inventor of the digital camera". Rediff.com India Limited. August 7, 2006. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Sydvesten: LOKAL- OG SLEKTSHISTORISK MAGASIN FOR ROGALAND" [Southwesterly: LOCAL AND BREAK HISTORICAL MAGAZINE FOR ROGALAND] (PDF). Rogaland-historie.no. 2008. p. 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-08-12. Stevens morfar, Kristoffer (Chris) Endresen utvandret i 1921 fra Skudeneshavn til Brooklyn, der han slo seg ned somfisker. [Steven's grandfather, Kristoffer (Chris) Endresen, emigrated in 1921 from Skudenes Harbor to Brooklyn.]
  3. ^ "Alumni Hall of Fame". www.bths.edu.
  4. ^ a b History of the digital camera and digital imaging Archived 2015-05-27 at the Wayback Machine, Digital Camera Museum
  5. ^ Estrin, James (August 12, 2015). "Kodak's First Digital Moment". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b U.S. patent 4,131,919 Patent – Electronic Still camera
  7. ^ U.S. Patent 3,951,552 "Photometer-digitizer system" to Thomas McCord and James Westphal, filed August 7, 1972.
  8. ^ "The woman who brought us the world". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2023-08-29.
  9. ^ McCord, Thomas (May 1972). "Two-Dimensional Silicon Vidicon Astronomical Photometer" (PDF). Applied Optics. 11 (3): 522–526. Bibcode:1972ApOpt..11..522M. doi:10.1364/AO.11.000522. PMID 20111543.
  10. ^ a b Dobbin, Ben (September 8, 2005). "Kodak engineer had revolutionary idea: the first digital camera". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
  11. ^ "Overview of the Institute for Advanced Discovery & Innovation".
  12. ^ "Obama awards the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation Ceremony: Speech Transcript". The Washington Post. 17 November 2010. Archived from the original on 10 February 2011.
  13. ^ Schulman, Kori (November 17, 2010). "What You Missed: Tuesday Talk on The National MedalsLaureates of Science, Technology and Innovations". whitehouse.gov – via National Archives.
  14. ^ "Progress Medal". rps.org.
  15. ^ "Photokina Daily" (PDF). Photokina-daily.com. 22 September 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-03-15. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  16. ^ "National Academy of Inventors".

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