A Digital Camera For The 1984 Market

Digital cameras are a ubiquitous consumer and professional product here in 2023, and because of the wide availability of parts it’s relatively straightforward to construct one for yourself. Four decades ago though, film was king, but that hasn’t stopped [Georg Lukas] from building a digital camera for the 1984 market. The hardware is definitely from recent years, the extremely affordable ESP32-cam board that many of us will have worked with already. Meanwhile the 1984 part lies in the recording format, it makes EGA 16-colour low-res pictures and stores them in the archaic TGA file format.

A low-res camera is fun, but there are two other angles on this which are definitely worth some time. The first is that his description and code are worth a read for anyone with an interest in programming an ESP32 camera, while the second invites us to consider whether such a camera could have been made using parts available in 1984. We remember camera peripherals for 8-bit microcomputers which were a C-mount lens positioned over a decapped RAM chip, and thus we can’t help wondering whether an RGB split to three of those sensors could have been constructed. Whether a 6502 or a Z80 with 64k of memory could have processed the three images into one is another matter, but at least if any of you want to try there’s a handy 1984 computer still popping up on eBay.