In the fifties Russell Kirsch, an American computer engineer, worked at the National Bureau of Standards, a government agency that deals with the development and management of technology. In 1957, in practice, Kirsch was one of the few people in the US to be able to work with the world’s only programmable computer, and in the spring was the first to be scanned a photograph with a scanner: took a photo of himself as he held in his arms his son for three months, Walden, and cut it out so we only keep the child’s face. The US magazine Atlantic has collected some pieces of the history of that image in black and white, which – because of the importance which then had developments in digital photography – in 2003 it was also entered by Life magazine in the list of “100 photographs that changed the world”.
At the time the photo was taken and then digitized, Kirsch and his colleagues had developed only a few years the first computer, the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC). To capture the image of his son Walden, Kirsch used a first rudimentary scanner drum, which ideally decomposed the image into small squares and transmitted and translated into binary form – 1 or 0 – the information contained in each of those little square (pixels). The digital image of Walden Kirsch had a size of 176 pixels per side. The size of the photo was gained five centimeters by five. The depth was only one bit per pixel, and the photo was scanned in black and white, without gray.