A recent BBC report explained how Ueda, a former employee of camera company Minolta, created his “telescopic extender stick” so he could take shots of himself and his family using his film camera. The idea came to him when, during a vacation with his wife in France, a kid ran off with his camera after he’d asked the child to take their picture.
Convinced that his selfie stick would become a hit with holiday snappers, Ueda submitted the design to the U.S. patent office in 1983, which published it two years later.
Dug out by PetaPixel, the patent describes a familiar-sounding “telescopic extender for supporting a compact camera,” and details its components as “a head member to be attached to the camera, a grip to be held and a telescopic rod member connecting the head member to the grip.”
In case there’s any doubt that the patent is indeed describing what appears to be the first ever selfie stick, it adds, “The grip can accommodate therein the telescopic rod when the telescopic rod is completely collapsed.”
The main difference between Ueda’s extendable stick and its modern-day counterpart is down to the state of the technology available at the time. Film cameras, unlike today’s smartphones, had no way of showing selfie shooters like Ueda what kind of picture he was taking, so to overcome the issue, one of the designs included a camera with a small mirror on the front, close to the lens.
However, when Minolta launched the device in Japan in the 80s, Ueda’s invention failed to catch on with camera owners, although that didn’t stop him using it to grab selfies with his family during vacations – check out the one below taken by Hiroshi with his brand new telescopic pole.
The patent for the stick expired in 2003, four years before the iPhone launched the smartphone market and a good 10 years before the selfie stick started to show up at tourist sites around the world. Now, of course, it’s hard to avoid the contraption. Indeed, it’s now become so popular that places like galleries and sports stadiums have started imposing bans, fearing accidental injuries or damage to artifacts.
As for Ueda, he doesn’t sound bitter about the failure of his design and the way things have turned out for the selfie stick. “My idea came too early, but that’s just one of those things,” he told the BBC. “We call it a 3am invention – it arrived too early.”