When I bought my first digital camera in 1996, the specs were quite impressive. My Epson PhotoPC could take a picture large enough to fill my entire PC’s VGA-resolution screen – 640×480! Of course, on dial-up modems, you would never put pictures of that size on a website, so I often used the half-size 320×240 images online (or smaller).
But today, icons for phone apps are larger than 640×480. My huge 1996 pictures now look like postage stamps.
But technology always finds a way, and I am experimenting with some modern image processing that uses artificial intelligence to try to figure out what was supposed to be in the photo, and make it larger.
Here is an example… This is a 1996 photo from Disneyland:
And here is the same photo, reprocessed to be double the resolution:
If you viewed the original at double size and compared it with the reprocessed photo, you could see quite a difference. But in small sizes in this article, it just looks a tad sharper. Zooming in on the people in the canoe shows there wasn’t enough detail for the AI to do much. It gives them a weird artistic filtered look.
Let’s see if we can show them side-by-side. You can click on these to see them full size.
The question I have for you today is … should I reprocess the photos I share in these articles? Or just use the original 1996 versions as-is?
As an early adopter of digital cameras (my first was purchased in 1996), I am no stranger to adopting new tech before the rest of the world decides it’s useful.
In the early 2000s, I became fascinated with panoramic photography. I learned about special mirrors that let a camera take 360 panoramic photos with just one shot. Around 2005 I purchased a SurroundPhoto attachment and a Nokia camera specifically to use for this purpose. Here is what an image looked like:
If you’ve ever looked at the files that come out of a modern RICOH Theta VR camera, you will find this image a bit familiar.
Using special software, this weird image could be flattened out into a panorama:
I had already created a virtual tour of Disneyland by taking four pictures in each spot (facing north, south, west and east) and linking them all together as web pages with a custom program I wrote. I wanted to do the next version using 360 panorama VR-style photos.
Someday maybe I will.
I had also gotten my first digital camcorder in 1999 and was recording everything I was allowed to during my Disney trips. I have hundreds of tapes rotting away in storage. Some of them are in 3-D thanks to learning about the NuView camcorder attachment:
This odd device attached to the front of any pre-HD camcorder and used a special lens system to record what a left and right eye would see as separate scan lines in the old video signal.
I took this with me on a few trips and recorded a few hours of 3-D video, which I could later convert to red/blue anaglyph. I made copies of my 3-D home movies available on DVD (because I also was an early adopter of a machine that could burn DVDs). It’s hard to believe that burning DVDs was a big deal. (Somewhere I still have tons of the paper red/blue 3-D glasses.)
After that, I was an early adopter of HD video (even though I wouldn’t own an HD TV until years later). I still have many tapes I have yet to even look at.
Someday maybe I will.
And as far as “real” VR goes, I did get to play Dactyl Nightmare, the first consumer VR experience, at a Dave and Buster’s near Dallas back around 1993 or so. I then saw a demonstration of VR at Epcot in 1995, then got to play DisneyVR at the Tomorrowland Starcade at Disneyland in 1996.
Yet somehow I missed adopting VR at home, beyond playing with a “put your phone in this thing” Google cardboard device.
My first “personal home page” (today we call them websites) was started in 1995 thanks to a site called GeoPages. They gave anyone who wanted one a tiny bit of space on their public web server. (I seem to recall it was about 512K of storage.)
GeoPages was later changed to GeoCities. My site, “Al’s Place”, stayed there for a few years before I got annoyed with the ads and needed much more space, requiring me to move to a different hosting provider.
But I digress.
Thanks to the Wayback Machine over at the Internet Archives, you can now see the earliest copy of my website they have indexed. It was archived on February 3, 1999. The content itself looks like it was last updated in 1997 since there is a note on the site explaining that I’d moved on to a different hosting location.
I am excited to find this snapshot, though sadly it doesn’t have any of the earlier versions. It’s at least a look at my site in its final form at the old GeoCities location. I had looked for this in the archives a few years ago and it wasn’t there, so I was surprised to find it.
Of special interest to me was my link to the “Banks Family Vacation” web page that inspired me to get a digital camera and start taking and sharing digital photos back in 1996.
Although the link on my archived site doesn’t work, it at least gave me what I needed to track it down in the Wayback Machine. Ladies and gentlemen, here may be the very first “take and post pictures from Disney” site that ever existed on the Internet:
On my About page, I have been trying to reconstruct a list of all the times I visited Disneyland and Walt Disney World with my digital camera.
In those early days of digital photography, my camera did have a clock but it did not have a screen. The only way I could set the time was by hooking it to a computer. As such, early photos might have the wrong time zone, or even the wrong date. I’ve done my best to correct what I can and rename my photos, but it’s clear I still have some more work to do.
One thing I noticed was it showing me taking pictures at Disneyland and Walt Disney World on the same day — there was actually one day in-between those trips.
I also noticed a few screen grabs from my digital camcorder were off.
I first experienced the Internet in the early 1990s via an old text-based dial-up service called GEnie (operated by long-time Disney-sponsor General Electric). GEnie had opened up a portal to a few types of internet services, including things like Gopher (the pre-web search engine) and FTP (the pre-web file transfer). They also had something that let you view text pages on the internet. It wasn’t until July 1995 that I would learn that these text pages could also have pictures!
I had accepted a new job and moved to Iowa. On my desk was a SUN workstation running SunOS (Unix). It had a program called Netscape that let you see those same text pages, but with small pictures! It’s hard to believe there was a time when we didn’t know what the “world wide web” was.
One of the early web sites I visited was a personal home page for the Banks Family. They had gone to Walt Disney World and used something called an Apple QuickTake to take photos and then upload them to their website each night. Yes, Virginia. Apple basically invented the consumer digital camera in 1994.
Since my new job allowed me to get to Disneyland and Disney World often, I decided I would like to have one of these computer cameras* to document my trips also. There weren’t many options back then, so in 1996 I decided to buy an Epson PhotoPC for $500.
* During those early years, I had to call it a “computer camera”. No one knew what a “digital camera” was.
The PhotoPC had 1 megabyte of storage. It could take a dozen 320×240 images (or a few at 640×480) before you had to hook it up to a PC to download those images over a serial cable. This is the camera I used for all my Disney and other theme park trips from 1996 to 1999. (I did soon spend $300 to add a 4MB memory expansion which let me store up to 99 640×480 photos.)
Film cameras of the day could have as few as 12 pictures per roll (like the Kodak Disc camera), or maybe 24 or 36 pictures for a more standard camera. Getting over a dozen digital and not having to buy film was amazing! Even if the pictures looked like this…
That is a 320×240 image from the PhotoPC. Understand that, back then, a “large” PC screen might have only been 640×480 so the full size pictures the camera took where perfect for the technology of the day. And since the internet was a dial-up service and very slow, photos were scaled down even smaller else they would take “forever” to load. While today that image looks like a thumbnail, back then, it filled 1/4th of the screen.
If I had known how important the world wide web would become, or that we’d one day have high speed internet and 4K monitors (I’m sure this will seem retro and quaint in a decade), I would have upgraded my camera sooner to the a model that took larger photos. But, at the time, this camera took images larger than I could use on the web.
With that in mind, I’ll leave you with a few more images:
This was the walkway that led to the parking lots. You can even see cars parked to the left and right of it. Unfortunately, the resolution is so low, I can’t tell if I was facing towards Disneyland (are those the ticket booths at the end?) or away from it towards where Disney California Adventure is today.
And just to compare, here is what a full size 640×480 image looked like:
That was the old Disneyland Hotel “lake.”
I look forward to walking you through some of these old photos in future postings. Hopefully this post will give you an idea of what I have in mind for future articles.