When Were Security Cameras Invented?

Published on August 24, 2018 by Matt Garnham in Blog Posts on Security Cameras

When Were Security Cameras Invented?

What better way to start our company blog, than talking about when were security cameras invented and first used?

Early 1900s

When were security cameras invented? Prison?The first known case of cameras being used for surveillance purposes actually dates back to around 1913 in a prison in the UK. This particular prison housed female extremist inmates who refused to cooperate in having their identification photos taken.

The prison guards took an alternative route and instead took photos from a great distance without their knowledge of course. These identifying images were of course still images as opposed to moving video. These women were called suffragettes.

These surveillance cameras did not produce video images. They were just cameras with very long lenses. If you read our Golden Rule, you will see that the way they were using cameras for surveillance in the early 1900s is very similar in principle to what we recommend our customers do now!

World War 2

German V2 RocketThere is little else that I have been able to discover about cameras being used for surveillance for another three decades. Lets go back to a notorious period of human history. The Second World War.

It was around 1940 when the Germans started to use security cameras to monitor their V2 rockets. This allowed the rocket launch environment to be visually monitored. An environment that was not suitable for people to physically be in.

50s and 60s

It was in the late 1950s/early 1960s that both Germany and the UK started to experiment with what would be recognized as the early ancestor to what we now think of as security cameras. Whilst the Germans were the first to use a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system, the British really grasped the baton and ran with it.

The British started using cameras at temporary locations where big crowds were to gather. Later in the 60s people came up more and more innovate uses for these cameras including but not limited to visits from heads of state, the rail network, city centers, soccer matches and many more.

It was in the late 1960s that the first company in the UK marketed a surveillance system to shopkeepers and other businesses.

Late 1960s

Sears StoreThe first commercially installed security camera system in the US I have been able to find information about was in the late 1960s. One of the Sears department stores in New York had been broken into and robbed…again. The staff were complaining that they would have to get a guard dog and look after it.

Instead, it was suggested an 8 camera security system would be installed. It took 2 years and nearly $1.5 million dollars in 1968 (approx. $11 million in 2018 dollars).

Fortunately, here at Orange Security an 8 Camera System starts at a much more reasonable $1,200!

These 8 cameras were monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the police department. It was clear that this surveillance technology had arrived. Within a year, nearly 200 police chiefs from all over the country had visited New York to inspect this system.


It was in the mid 1970s that security camera systems were used for the first time to monitor the road networks. This was in the area surrounding London, England.

Security Camera Revolution

VHS TapesThe biggest security camera revolution came in the 1970s. This was when VHS tapes and VCRs were introduced. This changed the surveillance camera industry almost overnight.

There was now no need to pay a security guard to constantly monitor the security camera feed. Instead footage could be reviewed when there was a reported incident. Not only that, but it also allowed recordings of events to be stored for later use as evidence.


The 1980s were a great decade for security cameras. By the end of this decade, the CCD (Charge Coupled Device) had been developed and were being used in security cameras (now we also use CMOS sensors). These CCD sensors really helped to improve the low light recording capabilities allowing the security cameras to see at night in total darkness.

The reason this was a great time for CCTV cameras was this really started the journey from poor quality, low resolution, grainy black and white images to the high definition color images of today.

Second Security Camera Revolution

The second security camera revolution came about in the 1990s when multiplexers were introduced. These complicated devices took multiple security camera video signals and displayed them on the screen.

More importantly, it also allowed multiple camera feeds to be recorded on one tape. The multiplexer synchronized the video feeds and then recorded it onto one tape. This led to efficiency increases and made security camera systems possible not only for businesses but home owners also.

These multiplexers then went on to add further features such as recording only on motion saving video tape.


World Trade Center Attack in 1993In 1993 the World Trade Center was attacked for the first time.

This attack really put security at the front and center of people’s minds. More cameras than ever started to be installed across the globe.


Modern Day

Security cameras are now a part of everyday life. Even security cameras in cars are becoming popular (dashcams) to keep people safe and to allow review after an accident. I doubt there are many people who are not seen on a security camera at least once, each and every day. Like it or not, they are here to stay. More importantly they are here to keep us safe…and they do a good job of it!


In conclusion, my personal belief is that something we would recognize as a security camera was an invention of the year 1940 before finding it’s way into the German rocket program.

It is astonishing to think that the security cameras that we sell all day, every day are descended from a German missile program and were actually involved in sending the first man-made object into space!

about the author: Matt Garnham
Security Camera expert for many years. He is the founder and owner of Orange Security. Started life in the security industry in the UK. Relocated to Southern Florida and Orange Security was formed.

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