To say that it frightened me to even talk to a man like Mr. Kirsch is the understatement of the century. But I called the number he left and we had a delightful and memorable conversation. He was a charming and engaging man.
Now you say, who is Russell Kirsch? Well he is in fact the man that created the first computer that could see and took the first ever picture with a digital device.
He was working at the time with the federal government on a project to create the digital computer and later worked at a not-for-profit organization called National Institute of Standards and Technology as head of the Artificial Intelligence . He began his work at the government level in 1951 and he career there spanned 30 years. Part of his job there included thermonuclear weapons calculations.
But all that is not why I was so impressed. He, like so many computer geeks after him, spent a certain amount of his time at the government computers working on things other than calculation. He, in fact, spent that time figuring out how to take a picture with his computer. This venture led to such devices as CT scanners, satellite imaging, bar-code scanners, desktop publishing, blood-cell analyzers as well as the digital camera.
The original picture he created about 50 years ago appeared in Life magazine as one of the images that helped change the world. The image was of his infant son, a man that is now employed by Intel.
So to say that I admire Russell Kirsch is not all of the story.. I have written before about him. He is in fact one of my heroes. I give you Russell Kirsch, the inventor of the square pixel, the man that wondered if a computer could see, the man that thought that a picture of a baby might be more important that “thermonuclear weapons calculations”!