He taught computer to see….Russel Kirsch

I’ve just spent the last 45 minutes online trying to find information on the man that invented the square pixel that we use in our cameras today. “The Man that Taught Computers to See” is one Russell Kirsch. He lives in the West Hill of Portland and his son now works for our local industrial giant, Intel, helping run their worldwide internal news organization. This son, now 50, was the subject of the older Kirsch’s first digital image.

Interestingly enough, Russell Kirsch says that the square pixel was a bad idea that survived. Pictures would indeed be far clearer if he had chosen to use some other shape. He did not say what that might have been. The original picture appeared in Life magazine as one of the images that helped change the world.

The Oregonian in the article “The man who taught computers to see; Personal Tech: The world’s first digital image” published on May 11, 2007, said this wonder of engineering was responsible for “CT scanners, satellite imaging, bar-code scanners, desktop publishing, blood-cell analyzers and digital photography, among others.” I was so impressed by the man that did such a wonderful thing.

What really caught my eye was his comment that he spent a certain part of his time on the computer available to him doing this sort of exploration instead of what he was really suppose to be doing. Does that sound familiar to you computer geeks out there? Thermonuclear weapons calculations was part of his job. He said that the unauthorized use of the computer in the work place has probably lead to many, many computer applications that would never have been discovered. Some of the most powerful thinking happen when we are having fun being creative.

I also loved that he had 2 (two) Mac Books and that he and his wife, an art historian, were looking at art with the computer. A whole new way of seeing the world of art has inspired them and Kirsch say that, if he had done his research in the beginning, the pixel would indeed have not been square.

The way a man’s mind works is a wonderful thing. But the fact that the mind continues to work and learn as we grow older is an inspiration. As I said yesterday, “Learn something new. And remember a smile makes you look and feel alive.”

So, I am dedicating this week to Russel Kirsch, the inventor or the square pixel, the man that wondered if a computer could see, the man that thought that maybe a picture of a baby might be more important that “thermonuclear weapons calculations”! I love it!!!!



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