Chip Hall of Fame: Kodak KAF-1300 Image Sensor

The chip that brought digital photography outside the lab

1 min read
Kodak KAF-1300 Image Sensor
Photo: Kodak

chip Photo: Kodak

KAF-1300 Image Sensor

Manufacturer: Kodak

Category: MEMs and Sensors

Year: 1986

Image sensors are so small and cheap now, that it’s hard to buy a phone without a built-in camera. Which is a result that few casual observers would have predicted in 1991 at the launch of the Kodak DCS 100 digital camera. The DCS 100 cost as much as US $25,000 and required a 5-kilogram external data storage unit that users had to carry on a shoulder strap. Still, the camera’s electronics—housed inside a Nikon F3 body—included one impressive piece of hardware: a thumbnail-size chip that could capture images at a resolution of 1.3 megapixels, enough for sharp 5-by-7-inch prints. “At the time, 1 megapixel was a magic number,” says Eric Stevens, the chip’s lead designer. The chip—a true two-phase charge-coupled device—became the basis for future CCD sensors, helping to kick-start the digital photography revolution. What, by the way, was the very first photo made with the KAF-1300? “Uh,” says Stevens, “we just pointed the sensor at the wall of the laboratory.”

Photo: Kodak

The DCS 100 digital camera required a separate and bulky pack to store its 1.3-megapixel images.

The Conversation (0)

Inventing the Atari 2600

The Atari Video Computer System gave game programmers room to be creative

18 min read
Brown and black gaming console with Atari logo labeled video computer system

The Atari Video Computer System (VCS), first released in 1977, was subsequently renamed the Atari 2600 and became the most popular home game machine of its era.

Evan Amos

In late 1975, sales of devices that made it possible for consumers to play Pong on home television sets were booming. At Atari Inc., which had first introduced Pong as an arcade game and had manufactured one of the most popular home versions of Pong, engineers began looking for the next arcade game to put in consumer hands, anticipating that people would grow tired of two paddles and a ball.

They saw Jet Fighter and Tank, but instead of designing a custom chip for each game, as was done for Pong, they planned a system that would play both games, four-player Pong if anyone was interested, and possibly a few other, as yet unknown games. The system was to be based on a microprocessor.

In a few months, Atari's designers in Grass Valley, Calif., had made a working prototype, and over the next year, designers from Grass Valley and from Sunnyvale, Calif., refined what was to be the Atari Video Computer System (VCS). It was released in 1977, and six years later ranks as one of the most successful microprocessor-based products ever built, with over 12 million sold at about $140 apiece.

Success did not come without problems. Production problems in the first two years caused Atari losses estimated near $25 million. But once these problems were solved and enough software was developed, the VCS took off.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less