Digital Mona Lisa

First digital Mona Lisa

H. Philip Peterson, CDC Corp.
Computer History Museum, Boston, MA

In 1964, H. Philip Peterson used a CDC (Control Data Corporation) 3200 computer and a "flying-spot" scanner to create a digital representation of the Mona Lisa. The image contained 100,000 pixels plotted using numerals, sometimes overprinted, to approximate the required density and took 14 hours to complete. [source: Computer History Museum]

The flying-spot scanner was invented by Manfred von Ardenne in 1930. It was used for electronic television. The scanner of a cathode-ray tube is a fast flying spot generated by an electron beam. The light spot illuminates a picture and the passed or reflected light is converted into picture signals by a photodiode.

At right is a close-up of Mona's right eye. You can see the individual numbers, some printed over one another to achieve the desired brightness/luminosity. Detail: Digital Mona Lisa

Inevitably, Mona appears in several of my own collages.


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