Russell Kirsch, the Inventor of the “Pixel”, Passes Away at the Age of 91

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INTRO: When we flick through our favorite pictures on a contemporary display, we stare at many tiny illuminated areas on the pc screen. These minute illuminated areas on a display are what we call “pixels”. And the inventor of this revolutionary technology recently gave up the ghost.

Way back in 1957, Russell Kirsch, an American Engineer of the National Bureau of Standards and his team developed the primary digital photograph. As a result of that experiment, the team invented the building block of any visual information on a display screen, i.e., the “pixel”.

The World’s First Digital Image and therefore the Invention of the “Pixel”

So, within the year 1957, to answer his own wonderment of “what would happen if computers could see the planet the way we do?”, he was performing on a drum scanner at the NBS (now referred to as the National Institute of Standards and Technology). To test out his creation, he brought a physical photograph (below) of him and his recently born son, Walden Kirsch to the office.

With the assistance of his scanner and therefore the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC), the primary programmable computer within the States, Kirsch was ready to replicate the image of his son on a computer screen.

Russell Kirsch, Inventor of the Pixel and Creator of the First ...

This was the world’s first digital image which led to the invention of the “pixel”. Compared to what we capture with our current “Pixel” devices, this picture was nothing. But, it had been the year 1957 and no-one has seen an image on a display screen , not even a 176 x 176 image like this one.

So, following the experiment, Kirsch and his team published a paper about it in 1957 titled “Experiments in Processing Pictorial Information with a Digital Computer”. You can inspect the research paper on the official website of the pc History Museum.

However, the most important problem at the time was storage. Computers, back in those days, couldn’t hold much information, and hence Kirsch could replicate only the face of his baby, rather than the whole picture.

Now, consistent with recent reports, the revolutionary engineer and scientist died at the age of 91 in his house in Portland. According to his son, the explanation for Kirsch’s death was frontotemporal dementia.

So, three cheers for the person who made it possible for us to ascertain content on our computer screens. You now live in the millions of “pixels” as well as in our hearts.

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