American who took the first digital photo died

The maker of the first digital photo died at the age of 91. Russell Kirsch built a photo scanner in 1957 because he was curious as to whether a computer could also look at the world. For his first experiment he used a baby photo of his son Walden.

“I have to admit I sometimes used time that was actually meant for supposedly more useful results, such as calculations on thermonuclear weapons”, Kirsch once confessed.


For his photo experiment Kirsch thought it would be useful to digitally chop an image into small pieces, pixels. For his first photo, measuring 5 by 5 centimetres, he used a resolution of 176×176 pixels. A fraction of the many millions of pixels used by photo cameras today.

Later Kirsch realized that it had been wrong to make the pixels all small squares. As a result, the natural shapes in a photo were lost. “Square was a logical choice, but also very stupid and the world has always bothered.”

The original photo is now a museum piece. Walden himself is still proud of it. “How nice it is that my father didn’t choose a table or something for that first picture, but a real, living, small, drooling human being, I happen to be.”