Drawing on Early Camera Phones

wbmp owl

I drew this owl in 2003 on a Sony Ericsson T68i phone. 'Drawing' on that early camera phone consisted of wiggling a tiny joystick and pressing a diminutive keypad. Although this phone already took colour photos, it saved your hard won creations as monochrome wbmp files, which could be sent directly by SMS to older phones with screens that were only black-and-white (or, as many then were, grey-and-sludge-green).

t68i draw pad

This is the sony Ericsson t68i drawing pad.

t68i image editor

You could use the T68i keypad to control the tools. To move the pen, you either used the joystick or nudged with the keys in the direction of the purple arrows. Phew! It was laborious work for a not exactly impressive result.

t68i phone camera

Thank goodness mobile painting apps have improved since then.

I call the T68i an early camera phone. Actually the camera was an add-on that plugged into the handset. Using it, I amazed a few friends in 2003 by taking photographs with my telephone! Who had ever heard of such a thing?

About a year later, I upgraded to a Sony Ericsson T610, which was a true camera phone, with one of the first built-in cameras.

The T610 had an impressive range of photo editing effects, including Mosaic, Tint, Negative, Emboss, Frosted Glass, Contrast, Ripple and Brightness. Trouble was, these after-effects took quite a while to take effect. Furthermore, they didn't produce much effect. This was partly because they could only be applied to low quality pictures. Low, even for that time. Small sized pictures on the t610 were only 120 x 160 pixels. That's 0.02 megapixels. No wonder the widely held view was that phones with cameras would never catch on.

Sony Ericsson t610 phone

Large photos taken with the T610 were still only 288 x 352 pixels. 0.1 megapixels. What was the general surprise then, when they proved so inspiring. T610 photos taken all over the world were shown in an online gallery. The size limitation was a creative challenge.

Here, too, was the liberation of always having a camera with you. A misty picture was better than no picture at all. Often better, provoking thought and releasing imagination.

By 2006 my Sony Ericsson K800 camera phone was taking much more detailed photos.

Meanwhile, however, my affections had been stolen by the Sony Ericsson P900i with its touch screen and stylus, along with an assortment of Palms and Pocket PCs.

Fast forward to today with our multi-megapixel phone cameras and many-layered painting apps. A far cry from those early camera phones. Amazing to think they were the newest wonder scarcely more than a decade ago.

Drawing on early camera phones


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(c) Valerie Beeby 2000 - 2015