Wednesday, June 17, 2015

From Consumers to Producers - The Indian Story - Part 2

From Consumers to Producers - The Indian Story - Part 2

I wrote about computers in my last post in this series. Let's look at another technology that evolved along with computers and changed the way we communicate.

Still Cameras

I remember, when I was in school, we had a box camera, with which we could take black and white photographs. I used it for a long time, at least till 1983. I still have some of those pictures. From 1979 to mid-1980's the price of silver shot up more than 10 times, making silver nitrate, an important ingredient in photographic film and processing very expensive. This in turn, shot up the price of film rolls and photography as a hobby, simply went out of reach of many people.

The next camera (Rs.5000) I bought was for my wife the day my son, Tejas was born. December 01, 1994. This one also was a film based camera and by this time, we had colour film commonly available. The first photograph from this camera was of my son, taken by my wife, with me holding him in one hand, just about the length of my forearm. Well, now my son will easily be able to pick me up, probably with one hand! Still, photography was not something you did frequently. One postcard size print cost about Rs.6, so for one roll of the film, you ended up spending about 200 - 300 rupees. And there was no guarantee that all your photographs would come good. You couldn't just delete a bad photograph. There were of course expensive cameras always available, but only photography professionals used them.

Digital cameras arrived in the late 90's, but became commonly available and affordable in the 90's. This brought about a major change. Suddenly, we could preview the photographs, and more than that, click as many photographs as our memory card allowed. From being an expensive hobby, photography suddenly became very very affordable. There were also a wide range of cameras to choose from, higher the megapixels, higher the price. But still, photography became affordable to the general public.

Video Cameras

The evolution of video cameras was more interesting. In the late 80's we had those large VCR cameras, used by wedding photographers, recording on those huge, book sized video cassettes. The quality was just OK, but that was the best we had. While this was going on, Sony made the Beta Camcorder, or Betacam, in 1982 and later, in 1993, Digital Betacam. These were professional cameras used only by the television industry, giving high resolution images for good broadcast quality. Then in rapid succession, Sony also introduced Digital8/Hi8, cameras, and then DV (Digital Video) and MiniDV cameras. The most important thing was they were handycams - cameras that you could hold in your hands to record videos. They also got cheaper as the demand increased.

The technology inside the camera too kept developing. From a single CCDs, we got 3 CCD cameras. These Charged Coupled Devices were responsible to give the the best possible colour quality. Many other manufacturers too started making these cameras. My first 3CCD camera was a Panasonic and it gave amazing quality of skin colour and cost me Rs.64000/-. After using it for a couple of years, I actually lost it in a local train.

By then, the High Definition cameras had arrived. I now have a HD camera made by Canon. This tiny camera can record full HD video for one hour and gives me crystal clear images even on a large screen. But more about resolution and picture quality in another post.

If you have read my previous post, you will realise that computers and cameras, but evolved hand-in-hand. From 1980's to present, computers have evolved from 286 Mhz to more than 3 GHz processing speeds, and cameras from a VCR recorder to HD (handy) cams. More importantly, both now fit into the palm of your hand, and most of the times, they are built together, and they are affordable and can be easily used by anyone.

More in the next post.... click

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