Since the invention of the front-facing camera, taking selfies has become increasingly popular. Remember, back in the day, when we only had a mirror reflection to look at ourselves? Even though we still use mirrors – and incorporate them into our pictures – the selfie has become a cornerstone of our pop culture.
And with this cultural trend has come the rise of the selfie stick — a monopod that attaches to a smartphone and holds it in place, while its handle extends so the user can fit a group or the background into the photo and snap the selfie with a press of a button.
Go to just about any tourist trap, and you will see people gathering around around someone holding out a selfie stick. While the invention may have sounded silly at first, it has quickly become almost as popular as selfies themselves, annoying people so much that they have been banned at concerts, art museums, stadiums — and even by Apple.
You may have assumed that the selfie stick is a relatively new craze, but the invention has actually been around for a long time. Here is the history of the selfie stick.
The First Patent
Back in the '80s – a time before the widespread use of mobile phones – the first ever patent for the selfie stick was filed. Of course it wasn't called the selfie stick, but rather the "telescopic extender for supporting compact camera."
Invented by Hiroshi Ueda and Yujiro Mima, the patent filed in 1984 was for what would essentially be the modern day selfie stick. The main difference is that the product also featured a mirror so the users could see themselves, making sure they looked alright, before snapping the photo.
The idea came to Ueda idea after he had a hard time taking pictures with his wife while traveling in Europe. As a engineer at Minolta, Ueda used his skills and created the "extender stick," which held a camera in place with a tripod screw.
Ueda had the patent until 2003 when it ran out. Unaware of Ueda's patent, inventor Wayne Fromm came up with his own take on the selfie stick in 2005, called the Quik Pod — an "apparatus for supporting a camera and method for using the apparatus." Both inventors feel like their inventions were before their time, Fromm going so far as to say, "the selfie stick today would not exist if it was not for me."
The inventor feels that so strongly, he's suing other selfie stick creators who use his packaging design for copyright infringement. After spending "hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds" of hours on his product, the final design that is patented does give Fromm exclusive rights to sell a product in the U.S. — just not the rights to prevent others from developing a similar product.
First Real Evidence
It seems like the real origin of the modern selfie stick could be as old as photography itself, since all people had to do was attach a camera to a pole and pull on a cable. While the product we know today as the selfie stick was created by two different men, decades apart, we could argue that the first selfie stick ever (that we have proof of) dates as far back as 1925.
Freelance journalist Alan Cleaver shared a photo of his grandparents that was taken with an even earlier form of the selfie stick. To capture a post-wedding shot of himself with wife Helen, Arnold Hogg fashioned a device that would act as the remote for his camera's shutter. Thankfully, he captured the pole he used to position the camera away as evidence of his brilliant creation.
The First Selfie
Now that we know the history of the selfie stick, it's interesting to reflect on selfies and see that they really aren't that new either.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, which named "selfie" the 2013 word of the year, the term was first used in an online forum when an Australian man posted a photo of a face injury, saying that the photo was blurry because it was a selfie, not because he was drunk.
While the term was used on Flickr as early as 2004, it didn't really gain momentum until 2012 with the help of hashtags on social media. It wasn't until the Ellen Degeneres posted the most retweeted selfie of all time at the 2014 Oscar's that the term received attention in the news.
Today, selfies have evolved from a word to describe a self-portrait taken with camera phone to a part of our culture. But people have been taking selfies way before the invention of smartphones — indeed, selfies can be dated back to the 17th century.
The first selfie to ever exist is also the oldest self-portrait, taken in 1839 by photography enthusiast Robert Cornelius.
In 1909, Joseph Byron, founder of a photo studio in New York even showed his arms outstretched in his selfies, much like we pose to capture ours today.
Clearly, history tends to repeat itself. If only they could have known that a seemingly practical contraption that would one day be included in "The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions" would go on to become one of the must-have accessory in today's smart phone market.
Photo: Nick Hubbard | Flickr