The photo Philippe took and shared instantly on June 11th, 1997 utilized a unique server-based infrastructure. It had been under development for 8 months and the prototype server was running from his home. It’s this infrastructure that makes Kahn’s invention unique as it allowed that iconic moment to be shared instantly, and automatically, for the first time with about 2000 contacts.
Kodak, Polaroid, Fujitsu, and others had built prototypes that included a camera and a phone. However, none of them were server-based, used public wireless networks, nor could they share pictures instantly. The only functionality was saving pictures on the phone. There were no iconic moments. Essentially, they were taking pictures in a lab, only to be downloaded and viewed via printer.
Philippe connected both worlds together and made “point, shoot, and share instantly” a reality over a cellular wireless public network.
The “credit” of the invention has never been about the integration of the phone and the camera as a hardware prototype; it’s about bringing together the cellular wireless server infrastructure with the hardware, to create and capture that historic and iconic moment. That is the inspiration. It has inflections pointing to “a moment in time” that can be shared instantly with the world and is the foundation of today’s social media platforms.
At the maternity ward at Sutter Health Hospital, June 11th, 1997, Philippe held his newborn daughter for the first time and snapped a photo using a digital camera that he had just finished soldering into his laptop and cellphone.
The phone’s 1200 baud data connection served as a modem and wirelessly transferred the photo back to a Kahn’s server running in his home kitchen.
Philippe had been working on this server for 8-months, designing the infrastructure to handle instant picture sharing.
The server received the photo, uploaded it to a website, and generated a link to instantly send to nearly 2000 contacts in his address book.
The entire system worked, and his contacts instantly received the photo and shared the link.
Comments and feedback started to generate.
June 11th, 1997 marks the first time that a digital camera was connected through a data connection and successfully transferred a photo wirelessly to a backend server to instantly be shared. Today we hardly give it a thought when we snap a photo on our phones and send it off, but this was the moment that paved the way for that process; the birth of camera phones, media sharing, and a key foundation of all social networks.