Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
  Digital beats analog
I was one of the first ones to get a digital camera. Back in the stone age of digital cameras, I couldn't really afford one of the high end ones, but Kodak finally came out with the DC20, a low end camera and I was all over it. The pictures were 493x373 and it stored about 24 pictures in its meager built in flash, but it was less than $400 and I got one.

Kodak DC20

Sure the picture is worse than a $10 web cam these days, but this was 1996. I took a bunch of photos with it, and given the limited bandwidth back then, the image size was just right for the web (nobody was trying to print digital photos back then). You couldn't go mad with taking pictures given its limited memory and the frustratingly slow serial interface for downloading the pictures (which would often get stuck), but once you finally got the data off the camera onto your computer, you were all set to take more pictures.

woolstar snow

So I got used to taking pictures even when I wasn't committed to the result, and thus discovered the freedom that is frictionless photos. Jump forward ten years, and now I'm doing the same thing with video.

While tape was a great step over film (shooting a motion picture, even a low budget one, is an expensive proposition just from the point of view of the film itself, even if you do use shorts), and digital data on tape with digital transport to the computer made things painless to move around; digital storage for video takes the process from some pain to no pain. And standing at the point of frictionless video is truly remarkable.


Yes, I finally got the JVC GZ-MC500, a tiny little unit slightly larger than a tennis ball, that shoots video (and still pictures) on to compact flash and secure digital data cards. The thing is so small that every surface is covered with connectors and slots: battery here, charger there, video out down below, USB link around the corner, SD underneath behind the screen (which swivels up and out of the way).

So I get the thing, unpack it, turn it on (it came with the battery half charged, instead of dead), start taking a movie of the kids running around, and my three year old comes up and wants to see. He's used to being able to see pictures on the digital camera as we take them, so I try to explain that this takes movies, not still pictures. "Zacky SEE it!" he insists. So I switch it from record to playback, bring up the clip in the menu and show it to him. He grabs my brand new toy, and goes running over to his brother to show him, "Look! Zacky and Max." He then goes on to replay the clip ten times in a row, finally handing the unit back to me after he's memorized every last bit of it.

There's no way I could have done that with a tape based unit. I would have been cringing at the first replay (just due to dropouts), let alone be able to explain the concept of tape shuttling with rewind, fast forward, tape counters, etc. Now the shot is the shot, and doing anything and everything with it is instantly possible. And my kids will never know there was any other way to do it.

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