The History of Selfies & Selfie Sticks: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Love them or hate them, selfie sticks are absolutely everywhere. For those who don’t know, “People mostly purchase selfie sticks for two reasons. You can take selfies easily without needing to extend your arm. The second benefit is that everyone in your group can be included in the picture, no one has to miss out,” says Alynah Patel, CEO of Selfie Stick Gear.

The selfie stick is craze that’s transcended cultures, geographical landmasses, and age groups. While these devices may seem simple, millions are clamoring to get their hands on one. They’re fun – and arguably a little silly – but they’re also surprisingly practical. People have been taking pictures of themselves since cameras were first created, and the selfie stick finally offers an easy way to do so.


 

1. The First Ever Selfie Was Taken in 1839

the first selfie robert cornelius

The selfie stick as we know it hasn’t been around long, but selfies have been around for centuries. Some art critics argue that the portrait painting, which has been around since prehistoric Egypt, was the original selfie. Naysayers take note: while the selfie has been criticized as a product of millennial narcissism, aristocrats of the Renaissance-era and beyond paid a fortune to sit for hours while an artist painted their picture. How’s that for narcissism?

Beyond the brush and canvas, and with the invention of the camera in the 18th century, portraiture remained popular. But the first documented “selfie” – that is, a photographic self-portrait – was taken in 1839 by a photography enthusiast named Robert Cornelius in Philadelphia.


2. The First Selfie Stick Was Patented in the 1980s

 selfie-stick patent

Today, we know the selfie stick as a long rod designed for a front-facing smartphone. People use the selfie stick because it allows them to take pictures of themselves, either alone or in a group, and to get a sense of what the picture will look like before they take it. This smartphone accessory has been all the rage for the past two years, but the selfie stick isn’t a new idea.

In the 1980s, two Japanese inventors named Yujiro Mima and Hiroshi Ueda created a product that was patented as a telescopic extender for supporting a compact camera. The extender stick was designed to hold a small camera in place with a tripod screw. Mima and Ueda’s invention was different from other tripod devices, however, because it came with a mirror at the end of the rod, allowing photographers to see themselves as they snapped a picture. The patent ran from 1984 to 2003, giving way to new versions.


3. Selfie Sticks Have a Weird, Confusing History

couple uses selfie stick

(ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

The “telescopic extender” of the 1980s is just one piece of the multilayered history of selfie sticks. In 1925, a British couple took a photo of themselves at their wedding – a photo that clearly shows the use of a similar device. This first documented version of the selfie stick probably consisted of a camera strapped to a rod or pole, and the presence of the stick was likely a mistake.

Fast-forward almost a century, and we’ve moved beyond the mysterious British photo and “telescopic extender” to a new patent: the Quik Pod, which was also designed to be attached to a camera. Created by Canadian inventor Wayne Fromm, the Quik Pod was probably a direct precedent to the wildly popular selfie stick we all know and love today.

Interestingly enough, both Fromm and the Ueda-Mima partnership maintain that without their inventions, today’s selfie stick would not exist. Fromm has even gone so far as to claim full intellectual rights over the invention – and has instigated a lawsuit against other product developers whose selfie sticks are too similar to the Quik Pod. However, even if the Quik Pod is Fromm’s intellectual property, similar products developed by other manufacturers are entirely legal.

Today, developers all over the world have created selfie sticks, along with accessories to supplement the devices. There are wireless and wired selfie sticks, along with an optional LED flash bulb light for taking pictures in the dark. Other accessories include a wide-angle lens that can be attached to a smartphone, as well as a portable charging station to recharge both phones and selfie sticks on the go.


4. South Korea Has Banned the Use of Selfie Sticks

group uses selfie stick in South Korea

(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Maybe selfie sticks have gotten a little too popular, at least in some places – but not for obvious reasons. In South Korea, the selfie stick ban is the result of healthcare authorities’ paranoia. The selfie stick’s Bluetooth capabilities make it illegal under the nation’s “Wireless Telegraphy Act,” under the pretense that Bluetooth poses a health risk to civilians. Authorities also maintain that Bluetooth devices interfere with the functioning of other surrounding electronics. In both cases, overwhelming evidence has been presented to the contrary.


5. The Most Famous Selfie Ever Taken was at the Academy Awards in 2014

During the Samsung-sponsored Academy Awards in 2014, hostess Ellen DeGeneres gathered a group of celebrities together to take a selfie. The all-star lineup included Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, and others – but apparently some people were left out. On Twitter, Ellen lamented, “If only Bradley’s arm was longer.”

Maybe they should have used a selfie stick.

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