Mystery prototype at 1982 Super Bowl

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Mystery prototype at 1982 Super Bowl

Post by Webmaster » Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:04 pm

Recently, I came across an interesting blog post by professional photographer Doug Menuez. In particular, the following caught my attention:

"It was at the Super Bowl in 1982 that I first laid hands on a digital camera. It was an experimental prototype Nikon was working on. They let me shoot a frame or two. At the time, I thought the whole idea insane. I remember it being very slow and heavy." (Source: http://menuez.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/ ... ification/)

This was four years before Nikon showcased their Still Video Camera prototype at Photokina!

I asked Doug for more details. He don't remember much, but he's certain he saw it there:

"It was very primitive, big and bulky and pretty limited. It was like 1 frame per minute or something and had a single shutter speed of 1/90th sec. Other than that I don't remember anything. But I definitely shot something, it was definitely Nikon with some guys from Nikon showing people, and it was a prototype device. CCD I believe. "

Doug suggests it could have been a "rogue" unit doing some testing.

I've asked some of the people that would know if it could have been a digital Kodak or Nikon unit that was tested as early as 1982. Their replies:

Jim McGarvey, Kodak's lead engineer on the DCS cameras: "If it was Kodak, I've never heard of it, so I don't think so. We were at the Super Bowl in 1991 with the first DCS prototype, before the DCS was announced. I'm not aware of any Nikon bodied digital cameras before the ones I worked on in '89."

Kenji Toyoda, former planning manager with Nikon's Electronic Imaging Division: "I think it is impossible. Only one year after the sensational announcement of Sony Mavica!

Nikon already had started several development projects of electronic photography following my suggestion. But they had not reached the level to build prototypes of digital camera in 1982.

Press people requested Nikon to develop analog still video cameras just like Mavica which can drastically reduce transmitting time of pictures. But we explained them that image quality of SVC is not sufficient for press use, and started to develop image transmitters to send pictures directly from negative film as a realistic solution.

Anyway, only NHK and Kodak had digital camera prototypes made in public at that time, I believe. And these prototypes were not ones to be handled in the field such as Super Bowl.

I guess what Doug Menuez saw and handled then might have been a prototype analog still video camera developed by Sony or Canon."

The camera remains a mystery.

Please post here or contact me directly (webmaster at nikonweb.com) if you have any further information about this prototype unit. I'd be very much interested in hearing from other photographers who worked at the 1982 Super Bowl (played on January 24th, 1982, at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan) and may remember something.

Jarle

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Mystery solved

Post by Webmaster » Sat Nov 14, 2009 9:00 pm

Turns out it wasn't a Nikon after all. The camera Doug saw at the Super Bowl was a Sony Mavica, the first electronic camera, announced in August 1981:

http://www.sonyinsider.com/2009/03/11/a ... ic-camera/

Jarle

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Re: Mystery prototype at 1982 Super Bowl

Post by Stan Disbrow » Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:04 pm

Hi,

Makes sense. The first digital imaging system Kodak sold was a system for factories to use to determine if PWB's had been populated somewhere near correctly on semi-robotic assembly lines.

That was around 1987. In 1981, we still used humans to eyeball things on the lines.

Now, Kodak did have a modified Canon F1 back in 1987 that they used to demo how well the factory imaging system worked. That was when *I* saw my first digital camera - Kodak was selling IBM on their vision system at the time! :)

Later!

Stan
Amateur Photographer
Professional Electronics Development Engineer

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