Tag Archives: Camera

Jew of the Week: Philippe Kahn

Inventor of the Camera Phone

Philippe Kahn (b. 1952) was born in Paris, France to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. His mother fought alongside the French in World War II (with the rank of lieutenant), and went on to survive Auschwitz. Kahn studied in Zurich and Nice, attaining master’s degrees in both mathematics and music. During his studies, he wrote software for the world’s first modern personal computer, the French-made MICRAL of 1973. In 1982, he started his own company in California called Borland. It was one of the first start-ups to create software development tools, and stood out from other companies as it offered incredibly cheap products. (Its Turbo Pascal, for example, cost only $50 compared to the thousands of dollars that similar tools cost.) Over the next ten years, Kahn transformed Borland into a computer powerhouse with $500 million in revenue. However, a number of disagreements led to the board squeezing him out of his own company. Kahn took his severance pay and started a new company, Starfish. Just a few years later, he sold it to Motorola for a whopping $325 million. Around this time, Kahn’s daughter was born, and he got frustrated at his inability to quickly send baby photos to friends and family. He fiddled with his camera and his phone until he managed to link the two. He then sent history’s first photograph through a cellphone. This inspired him to develop the camera-phone, making it the focus of his new startup, LightSurf Technologies. This company, too, was bought out for $300 million. Since then, Kahn has started yet another company that designs and develops wearable technology. He is also an avid sailor, holding the world record for fastest San Francisco to Hawaii trip, and recently winning the Transpacific Yacht Race from LA to Hawaii. Kahn is credited with inventing the now-ubiquitous camera phone, and TIME Magazine included his first phone photograph in its 2016 list of the 100 Most Influential Photos of All Time.

Words of the Week

The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.
– Nikola Tesla

First photo taken and sent by a cellphone – June 11, 1997. TIME Magazine ranked it among the 100 Most Influential Photos of All Time.

Jew of the Week: Edwin Land

Say Cheese!

Edwin Land, Inventor of the Polaroid Camera

Edwin Land, Inventor of the Polaroid Camera

Edwin Herbert Land (1909-1991) was born in Connecticut, the son of a Russian-Jewish immigrant father. From a young age he loved taking things apart, and dreamed of inventions. He went to Harvard to study chemistry but left after just a few months. Land moved to New York, and there invented a filter that could polarize light. He returned to Harvard and spent three more years there, but once again dropped out, this time to start a company with his physics instructor, who came from a wealthy family and could provide the funds for Land’s work. Land first applied his filter technology to glasses, and invented polarized sunglasses. His technology spread rapidly, and was used in 3D movie glasses, LCD screens, windows, headlights and windshields. As the company grew larger, he renamed it the Polaroid Corporation in 1937. During World War II, Land focused his attention on military technology to assist the war effort. He helped develop some of the earliest night-vision goggles, smart bombs and heat-seeking bombs, as well as the Vectograph, which allows soldiers to identify camouflaged enemy troops. Land’s most famous invention would come after the war, when he put his mind towards making a camera that would generate a photograph immediately. Thus was born the instant camera, also known as a Polaroid camera, and originally called the Land Camera. Madly popular, the camera made Polaroid world-famous, and the “darling of Wall Street”. Land continued to assist the military and the government during the Cold War, spearheading the U2 spy plane, balloon cameras, satellite cameras, and various espionage technology. He was a regular adviser to American presidents. Land remained a scientist his whole life, running experiments daily. A true visionary, when he had an idea he wouldn’t rest until he could materialize it; he would often have to be reminded to eat, and once wore the same clothes for 18 days straight. Land was also a humanist and proponent of social justice, giving priority to hire women and African-Americans in his labs, at a time when it was highly unpopular to do so. He was beloved by the people and the press, won a long list of awards (including the Medal of Freedom), and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. His original polarizer invention was said to be “the most significant invention in the field of optics, certainly within the last generation, probably in the last century.” He finally earned an honourary degree from Harvard in 1957.

Words of the Week

Our young people, for the most part – unless they are geniuses – after a very short time in college give up any hope of being individually great. They plan, instead, to be good. They plan to be effective. They plan to do their job… It has become our habit, therefore, to think that the age of greatness has passed, that the age of the great man is gone… But I submit to you that when in each man the dream of personal greatness dies, democracy loses the real source of its future strength.

– Edwin Land