Do you realize Digital Cameras used to suck?

I was looking through some old photos I took from 1998-2002, some using a 1 megapixel camera while the rest were from a 3 megapixel camera. I had seen these images dozens of times before, and remembered them as well-composed, sharp photos. I was really getting into photography back then and I recalled the photos as my best work. Taking a fresh look at them today, the first thing that hit me was whoa, the photo quality is terrible! There is clearly a lot of low resolution blur going on. What happened to my mind’s beautiful memories of these images?

Here’s one I shot at SF’s MoMA. I remember thinking it was so arty and geometric and I recall it not being blurry but looking really sharp. If you look at it now, the screen over the window is a completely pixelated blur. I recall the same feeling when looking at Jason’s photos from Web98. I remember when the photos were new and I thought they were great back then but looking at them now, the quality is worse than my first cameraphone. Another old photo of bloggers got this reaction from me today. Back when I first saw it 6 years ago, it was a great photo. Today, it looks awful, severely limited by the technology of the day.

With the advent of better sensors and digital SLRs, it’s pretty astounding what comes out of a digital camera today. In an instant, I realized how fast and far the technology progressed in less than ten years. Could you imagine if traditional photography progressed from gelatin silver prints to medium format in less than a decade?

links for 2006-12-08

links for 2006-12-04

Distributed search of a different sort

I drove to the Oregon Coast today and the whole time I kept thinking about James Kim and his family. They have been missing for a week now and since there have been no phonecalls or credit card use, it’s not merely getting stuck in some snow (which we had last sunday or monday). It’s likely something worse, which caused me to scan the forests and embankments all the way to the coast.

I read about how they concentrated the search on the 38 highway, but if you check it out on Google Maps, there are 5 or 6 major roads (all about 60 miles long) that link the main cities along the 5 freeway with the coast. I know on my first trip to Oregon, I just randomly picked one and drove along the coast instead of the freeway. They could have certainly done the same.

I was thinking about how helpless it feels to sit at home and worry about this family, and how you could harness the power and goodwill of everyone. I’ve seen some pretty amazing stuff come out of MetaFilter, when people collaborate on a real world problem. Then it hit me. There are only 5 or 6 major roads to the coast, and they’re not that long. Why not run a surveillance plane 500′-1000′ feet above each of the roads, going slow enough that it takes maybe 20-30 minutes to follow the roads to the ocean. If the camera view could capture 100-200′ north and south of the road, you could probably film all 5 or 6 major roads in a single clear day like today.

If each recording is say 30 minutes long for a road, split it into 10 equal parts, 3 minutes long, and upload all of them to youtube. Ask viewers to leave comments pointing out when they see anything strange. The Kims were in a silver Saab wagon, so it’s probably something that can be seen from above. In total, there’d be 50 or 60 short clips and in a matter of hours you could have millions of people closely scan then and start pointing out the things worth looking into on the ground. If everyone says there’s a silver glint in the trees on video #6 from the highway 18 group, at 1:55 in, you could send a police unit out to investigate.

Hopefully an approach like the one I described is fairly normal in the future.