Friday, November 6, 2009

Great Scot! It's Doc Brown's Phone!

Funny line in this Times article about the capabilities that will be coming on phones in a couple of years:

Open up the device, point it at the street and ask it to show you what the place looked like 200 years ago, and it offers a photo or video.

Wow! Photos of what places looked like 200 years ago! Truly technology is progressing faster than I thought: apparently phones will have access to time-machine capabilities only a few short years from now...(fn1)

fn1: Some fun history. The first photographic techniques date to the 1820's but took several hours of exposure. The first relatively workable techniques were developed by M. Daguerre in the late 1830's and early 1840's. They took several minutes of exposure. So we are still at least a few decades away from being able to look at photographs of what places looked like 200 years ago, barring the invention of time travel allowing us to photograph them before the invention of photography.

The earliest workable motion picture camera was famously invented by Thomas Edison in the 1890's so we're quite aways away from calling up 200 year old moving pictures, even ignoring the fact that video more specifically referes to electronic capturing of motion pictures, which wasn't invented until the late 1920's by the fantastically named Philo T. Farnsworth. Electronic television, it should be noted, was based on an idea Farnsworth had at the age of 14! And people think teens today spend too much time thinking about television...

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