[NetBehaviour] Fifty Years of Pixels

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Tue Jun 29 10:50:12 CEST 2010

I can't see an actual date for this event in the web page. Does anybody know

Wayne Carlson at Ohio State knows as much about the history of computer
graphics as anyone (he is an important part of it). His timeline is here.


He identifies the first digitally scanned photo in 1957 and the first direct
image storage system in 1965 (the precursor to the framestore and therefore
the pixel). The framestore isn't mentioned in the timeline but that was
developed in the 60's by Ivan Sutherland whilst at Utah. He does mention the
first framebuffer, essentially a framestore, which was developed in 1969 at
Bell Labs. So far as I know the framestore/buffer introduced the pixel for
the first time. It was roughly (but perhaps not exactly) square. Lillian
Schwartz is credited with pixelating an image for the first time in 1970.

Many early systems had rectangular pixels. It depended in the x and y
resolution of the framestore and the ratio of the destination display
device. The first Matrox board I had (1978) was 512 x 512 resolution which I
used with a 4:3 screen. This ensured the pixels were 4:3 ratio as well, if
you wanted the image to fill the screen. Of course, you could programme it
to be any ratio you liked.



Simon Biggs
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk  simon at littlepig.org.uk
Skype: simonbiggsuk

Research Professor  edinburgh college of art
Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice
Centre for Film, Performance and Media Arts

> From: Rob Myers <rob at robmyers.org>
> Reply-To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity
> <netbehaviour at netbehaviour.org>
> Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2010 09:26:37 +0100
> To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity
> <netbehaviour at netbehaviour.org>
> Subject: [NetBehaviour] Fifty Years of Pixels
> http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/06/fifty_years_of_squares.html
> "Russell Kirsch says he's sorry.
> More than 50 years ago, Kirsch took a picture of his infant son and
> scanned it into a computer. It was the first digital image: a grainy,
> black-and-white baby picture that literally changed the way we view the
> world. With it, the smoothness of images captured on film was shattered
> to bits.
> The square pixel became the norm, thanks in part to Kirsch, and the
> world got a little bit rougher around the edges."
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