In 1989, I went to work for Jan Stenbeck, the "Ted Turner" of Scandinavia.
Stenbeck was building the first commercial TV networks in Sweden, Norway and Denmark -- TV3.
As with any TV network, we went out to buy a lot of programming. One of the hottest TV shows that year was America's Funniest Home Videos (remarkably, still on the air). You could buy the format rights, which we did. The only problem we had with making the show work was that almost no one in Scandinavia owned a home video camera. So we had to ship home video cameras out to people so they could shoot the funniest home videos.
Sometimes things work, sometimes they don't.
But the greater lesson here was the rarity of home video cameras in the late 1980s. Even in the U.S., people might have had a home video camera, but it rarely came out, except for weddings, birthdays and the occasional trip to Disneyworld.
Michael Zhang at Petapixel.com has done a remarkable study of the explosive growth of cameras in America. His study, starting in 1947, is of still cameras, but his findings are equally applicable to video cameras. I have reproduced his graph here. It takes a lot of space because the uptick is so enormous.
What makes Zhang's numbers jump is when smart phones began to incorporate cameras -- and of course, everyone carries a smart phone. So effectively everyone bought (and has with them all the time), a camera. A stills camera and a video camera.
The graphic is a bit hard to read (check out the original), but starting in 1953, when there were hardly any cameras at all in the public's hands, the grey represents conventional cameras, the blue, the arrival of mirror-less hand held little cameras -- you remember those -- and the yellow, the pure explosive impact of cameras in every smart phone. More than 1.3 billon of them and growing fast.
As you may have noticed, of late, the news is filled with video of "police" actions -- all of them shot on small cameras. This is not an anomaly. This is rather the beginnings of the ubiquity of video.
Video is going to be everywhere because the cameras are everywhere because everyone has one with them all the time.
Add to this the news that Apple's acquisition of LinX Computational Imaging is going to take the next generation of iPhone cameras to the DSLR level of quality (quick, sell your Canon stock now!), and you can see where this is all headed. It's the irresistible tyranny of Moore's Law.
What this means from a sociological point of view is that we are all going to be on camera -- or understand that we could be on camera -- all the time, no matter where we are, no matter what we are doing.
What this means from a career futures perspective is that it is no longer a unique or special skill to own a video camera, nor to shoot video. It is already a universal. And as such, the perceived value of that skill and that particular piece of hardware is going to diminish to next to nothing.
But as Walter Cronkite used to say every night -- that's the way it is.