Cameras have a long and surprising history, dating back to 300 B.C. The first camera was invented over 1000 years before the first photograph. The initial purpose of the camera was not to create images, but to understand the principles of light. Over the course of a millennium, the camera evolved from an optical and astronomy tool to a device used to record images, movies and sounds.
Since the time of the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, scientists have sought to understand optical reflections. Aristotle is credited as creating the first known camera, which was a rudimentary darkened box with a small hole in the top that allowed light to come through. Through his experiments, Aristotle questioned why the sun always appeared round, even when filtered through a square hole. He recorded his experiments in his 350 B.C. book Problems.
In the 11th century AD, Egyptian scientist Ibn al-Haytham created a pinhole camera similar to Aristotle's camera. It was an experiment on how the human eye perceives light, and it was also a tool for observing the movement of sun. Pinhole cameras rose to popularity in astronomy steadily throughout the Middle Ages as a safe method to view eclipses. It wasn't until the 15th century when scientists began to think of cameras as a way to capture images. Artists like Leonardo di Vinci and Johann Zahn discussed the usefulness of cameras in drawing. Some even suppose that the famous Dutch painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, was a product of camera projection and manual sketch-over.
In 1609, astronomer Johannes Kepler coined the term camera obscura for this pinhole type camera. Camera obscura is Latin for "dark chamber." Following Aristotle's prototype, the camera obscura was a dark room with a small hole that permitted outside light. The light reflected off of a lens and created an image on the floor of the dark room. The image was a direct, although invented, image of what appeared outside.
Through the 1600s, the technology of the camera obscura was greatly improved upon, and in 1685, Johann Zahn created a portable version of the camera obscura. In the 1800s, several inventors went to work on developing a permanent image output from the camera obscura. This image output was later named "photograph" by Sir John Herschel. Early types of photographs include the daguerreotype process and the calotype process, which relied on plates of copper or silver iodine to record an image. These images were vulnerable to fading, and required the aid of manual tracing to create a permanent image.
In 1860, Frederick Archer introduced the collodion wet plate process, which became the most popular and fastest method of photography. Cameras went digital in the late 20th century. Instead of relying on paper transference, digital cameras imprint images onto computer memory files. The first digital camera was created by Eastman Kodak engineer Steven Sasson in 1975, and later patented it in 1978. He built his model on Motorola and Texas Instrument predecessors. Cameras, particularly the digital types, are now a popular device enjoyed by many people around the world.