MicronEye Bullet (1983)

The MicronEye from Micron Technology Inc. was announced 1983 and therefore one of the first inexpensive digital cameras for the upcoming home computers. It's suggested retail price was $485 but hit the stores at a retail price of $395 for Apple devices and $295 for other computers. It was available as a ready-to-operate device or as a do-it-yourself kit. It was a pretty simple device and consisted of a camera head and TV lens, all tethered to a circuit board. The MicronEye was capable of taking up to 15 frames per second (grayscale) with a resolution of 256x128 pixel per image.

Contrary to what some of you may think it did not contain a CCD sensor (would have been to expensive) but an IS32 optical RAM chip instead. The chip contained two sets of pixels, each 128x256. Special software even allowed for higher resolutions of 256x256. Normally dynamic RAM chips are not light sensitive and only used for memory. Micron Technology Inc. was the first company to lay out the memory structure of this 64K chip in only two sections of 256 by 128 cells which made it light sensitive. An ideal and cheap substitute for the expensive CCD's of that time. The price of an IS32 optical RAM chip was only $42 at that time!

The MicronEye was also a very versatile device as it could be used on a variety of home computers for a multitude of different purposes like machine vision, pattern recognition, displaying graphics, 3D modelling etc. This dinosaur digital camera sold very good and was on the market for almost four years at the full retail price of $295.

Bytes magazine columnist Steven Ciarcia took most of the hardware of a Microneye digital camera and built his own prototype called the Micro D-cam. His efforts and a step-by-step guide were printed in Ciarcia's Circuit Cellar Vol. 7 of 1990. Above you can see a picture of the IS32 optical RAM chip as well as a picture of his D-Cam prototype camera. Ciarcia's prototype actually went for sale later on as a standalone version or as a DIY kit from MicroMint Inc.

Specifications

  • Brand: Micron Technology Inc.
  • Model: MicronEye Bullet
  • First mentioned: 1983
  • Marketed: yes
  • MSRP: $395 / $295
  • Imager Type: IS32 optical RAM chip
  • Resolution: 256x128
  • Internal Storage: -
  • External Storage: Computer harddrive or floppy disk drive
  • Lens: f=16mm /F1.4 Cosmicar TV lens
  • Shutter: electronic shutter
  • Aperture Range: F1.4
  • LCD screen size: -

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