A Brief History of the Pixel

We hear the term “pixel” used quite often—not just in reference to photography, but even in everyday life. As we move further and further into the digital age, “pixel” is becoming somewhat of a household word. But, what exactly is a pixel and where did it come from? Taran Van Hemert gives us a quick explanation in this short video:

What is a pixel?

The term pixel stems from the words picture and element. A pixel is a tiny area on an image that when combined with other pixels will form an image. Pixels are generally square or rectangle in shape, but not always. Our modern square pixels evolved from lines and triads.

what is a pixel

As technology changes, so does the way we project images.

When were pixels invented?

The history of pixels goes all the way back to 1839, when practical, commercially available photography was born. But, as Van Hemert explains in the video, pixels came around much later. When the color television was invented in the 1950s, the world moved much closer to the development of the pixel.

color tv triads

Color TV technology moved us closer to pixels.

In color TVs, electron beams hit an array of triads that created 512 horizontal lines to make up a picture. Those lines were later divided into rectangles. This made digital representation of images possible. Not long after, in 1965, the term “pixel” appeared for the first time.

“Pixels have continued to get smaller and smaller with better frame rates and better color depth.”

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