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The second half of the twentieth century saw further progress in imaging technology, including the emergence of highly sophisticated automatic still-image cameras and the use of analog video in camcorders and VCRs. Video became accessible to the mass culture, and the use of still images exploded. Today, more than 150 years into the evolution of silver halide photography, anyone who can look through a viewfinder and press a button can get an excellent picture, an hour later have prints, and within a week distribute them to people around the world for just a few dollars.
20th Century Film Photography
In the twentieth century, film-based photography became a broadly accessible consumer activity.
Just as silver halide photography reached its apex, a newer form of imaging appeared on the scene. In the early 1990s, digital technology changed the game forever by turning both still and video images into electronic bytes.
Digital photography is instantaneous by its very nature, compressing the time required for producing an image to virtually zero.
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Since no consumables are used other than battery power, the incremental cost of each image is also essentially zero. Furthermore, the ability to add “intelligence” to digital products has enabled engineers to advance their craft to the point that digital cameras and photoquality printers are now so smart, so automatic, that almost anyone can operate one and get pleasing results. As Nikon vice president Jerry Grossman put it, “We’re at the point where the camera does all the work, and so we’re seeing more and more nonphotographic people coming into photography.” Moreover, the merging of still and video technology is occurring rapidly. Most digital still cameras capture video clips, and many videocams are capable of taking still photos.
The biggest advance resulting from the advent of digital photography, however, is in the global reach that this new technology platform has afforded for visual communication. As a consequence of being captured in a digital format, images have gained entry to the staggeringly large and powerful network of computing, the Internet, and telecommunications resources that have been built up over the past 20 years.
It turns out that the overhype, overinvestment, and overdevelopment of the dot-com craze has had the positive, lasting effect of providing a sophisticated infrastructure to enable the next generation of interpersonal communications. While many of the dot-bombs can be ascribed to bad or nonexistent business models, the passion behind much of the technological development reflected genuine needs and desires to communicate in new, instant, ever-connected ways. A digital image can be captured and transmitted virtually anywhere on earth and distributed to hundreds of thousands of people in an instant. This combination of inexpensive, easy-to-use devices and the burgeoning worldwide information network means that the richness of visual communication is no longer restricted only to media conglomerates, but can be employed by anyone with an Internet connection. This represents a
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Now that the technology has matured and come down in price, digital photography makes picture taking even more accessible.
true technology-driven democratization of information, opening the door for Going Visual.
The most recent chapter in the history of visual communication technology began in 2003, when digital cameras merged with cell phones to produce the camera phone—the fastest-growing consumer product in history. By 2006, it is estimated that there will be 60 million camera phones in use in the United States.
Camera phones offer the simplest possible form of instant image capturing—simply push a button. In addition, they provide a direct connection to the wireless network—simply push another button to transmit the image.
More important, camera phones have created a historic sociological change in the way visual communication can fit into our lives. People tend to carry their cell phones with them wherever they go. They have become, along with our wallet and our keys, an item we
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Wireless photography marries imaging to the global reach of the Internet.
automatically take with us when we leave home. Given that these cell phones will, in very short order and with very few exceptions, all have built-in cameras (today you would be hard-pressed to find a camera-less cell phone for sale in Japan) we are rapidly evolving toward a society whose every member is equipped with an image-capturing device during all their waking hours, wherever they are. What’s more, because the cell phone is by nature a connected device, images that are captured instantly can be just as instantly transmitted through the network, potentially reaching millions. In that sense, the camera phone is not so much a merger of the camera and the telephone as it is a merger of the camera and the global telecommunications infrastructure. Imaging is thus intimately and inextricably linked to the mainstream of human connectedness, allowing all of us to communicate in ways we have only imagined until now. Going Visual aims to spark your imagination.