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Russell Kirsch, Inventor of the Pixel and Creator of the First Digital Photo, Dies at 91

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The first digital scanner, used to make the first digital photo in 1957 (left) and the first digital photo, an image of Russell Kirsch’s new baby in 1957 (right)
The first digital scanner, used to make the first digital photo in 1957 (left) and the first digital photo, an image of Russell Kirsch’s new baby in 1957 (right)
Image: NIST (Fair Use)

Russell Kirsch, the inventor of the pixel and the first person to create a digital photograph, died Tuesday at his home in Portland, Oregon, according to a report from the Washington Post. Kirsch was 91 years old.

Kirsch was a computer scientist who worked for the National Bureau of Standards in the 1950s (now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology) and worked with the first programmable computer in the U.S., called the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC), which was created in 1950. But it wasn’t until 1957 that Kirsch and his team started experimenting with digital images, a uniquely challenging pursuit when computers were big enough to fill entire rooms.

Kirsch became a new father with in 1957, and brought in a photograph of his three-month-old baby to test a new drum scanner that he’d worked on. Through his experiments, Kirsch created the first digital photo, which was just 176 pixels by 176 pixels according to NIST. (By contrast, inexpensive modern cameras can store around 20 million per photo.) In so doing, Kirsch and his team, including Leonard Cahn, Chuck Ray, and Genevieve Urban, had invented what would become known as the pixel.

The team published a paper with the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1957 titled “Experiments in Processing Pictorial Information with a Digital Computer” that’s available to read online thanks to the Computer History Museum. The paper includes other early examples of scanned photographs that became some of the earliest digital images. The biggest problem during the 1950s, of course, was storage. You really couldn’t hold that much information at one given time in 1957, leading to very limited practical uses for decades.

Notably, the term “pixel” wasn’t used yet in that paper and there was actually some debate about what to call that tiny square bit of visual information. The alternate term “pel” was often used in the early days, but pixel eventually won out.

Illustration for article titled Russell Kirsch, Inventor of the Pixel and Creator of the First Digital Photo, Dies at 91
Image: Computer History Museum (Fair Use)

Computers were serious business in the 1950s, even in popular culture movies like the classic Desk Set from 1957, and that seriousness really comes out in the interviews Kirsch would give years later about his time at the National Bureau of Standards. Every minute of the SEAC’s operation was supposed to be accounted for, and running the computer cost about $120 per hour, or over $1,100 adjusted for inflation. Kirsch admitted to “stealing” precious computer time, which led to experiments that would change the world for the better.

“Sometimes I can confess to having stolen machine time from purportedly more useful products like the thermonuclear weapons calculations and things of this sort,” Kirsch said in an oral history from 1970. “I wasn’t aware at the time of what I was stealing time from. I’m not entirely sure that I would have done differently had I known, but it was possible to get a certain amount of computing available at very attractive rates, namely free.”

It’s hard to explain just how revolutionary their photo experiment was, especially when other computer achievements were still decades away. The ARPANET, the precursor to our modern internet, didn’t make its first connection until October of 1969 and digital photography wouldn’t become a common consumer-oriented pursuit until the late 1990s.

Ask your grandparents about what it was like taking film to get developed, kids. It was an experience.

Source : Gizmodo Read More

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Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

White Wireless Charge Lamp | $18 | Amazon | Clip coupon + code ABC88699
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Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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