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Kodak: The End of an American Moment

Filmless Photography

Steve Sasson pulls from his large scrap book a letter from the patent department about the electronic camera he finished at Kodak in 1976 and with it, a note he wrote to his father that said the company was moving forward with the application.

"I've never shown this to anyone before," Sasson says as he stands in his study room, wearing light grey jeans and a black polo shirt.

Sasson, an electrical engineer, penned the note with blue ink in cursive handwriting scratched across blue-lined graph paper.

"Dear Mon Pere, I got a copy of this from the patent lawyers this morning. Looks like other people are crazy like me. They've stopped my patent application until they get a copy of this patent. This will get some more people worried about this approach now, seeing as somebody else is moving. Well maybe they'll give us some more money now. I told them! Bye," the note to his father reads.

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Scribbled below the note is the crude doodle of a man wearing a "K" on his chest while waving his hand.

Sasson grins.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born engineer, who says he discovered his flair for technology at Brooklyn Technical High School, was just a 25-year-old employee when he learned how to snap a photo and instantly play it back on a television screen.

A few years before Sasson started work on his electric camera, Bell Labs produced a technology called the charge-coupled device (CCD) -- it's the critical component that captures an image and reads it out electronically. Kodak approached Sasson, his boss, Gareth Lloyd, and other employees in the electronics group to experiment with Bell Labs's new invention to see if the company could use it for imaging.

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