Short of the Day: The Birth of the Camera Phone, a Documentary

See where your selfie obsession began.
By  · Published on July 27th, 2017

See where your selfie obsession began.

The last half-century is pocked with amazing, life-changing inventions: the artificial heart, various vaccines and medications, the personal computer, the internet, solar panels, electric cars, the space program, cable TV, and fidget spinners, just to name a few. But perhaps the most ubiquitous, the most used, and the most unassuming, is the camera phone.

Think about it: the camera phone hasn’t just changed the way we take pictures, it has changed the way breaking news is covered, it has influenced the rise of social media, and it has made the documentation of one’s life an afterthought, an ability so overused it’s practically rote at this point.

The first ever camera phone – meaning the first ever phone that could both take a picture and transmit it to the internet via email – was developed, as are the best things, out of improvised necessity. It happened in 1997 when expectant father Philippe Kahn jerry-rigged a digital camera to his telephone in order to snap a pic of his newborn daughter and immediately share it with the world. This process was, of course, significantly more complicated than I’ve described it, but that’s what today’s short film is for. It’s called The Birth of the Camera Phone and in four succinct minutes it faithfully recreates this moment of massive innovation that would go on to change the world.

The film is directed by Jonathan Ignatius Green, who in addition to revealing a fascinating slice of tech history also imbues his story with heart, humor, and just a dose of wonder. This is more than a history lesson, here, it’s a uniquely modern take on the mother – or in this case the father – of invention.

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