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A Biography of the Pixel

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The pixel as the organizing principle of all pictures, from cave paintings to Toy Story. The Great Digital Convergence of all media types into one universal digital medium occurred, with little fanfare, at the recent turn of the millennium. The bit became the universal medium, and the pixel--a particular packaging of bits--conquered the world. Henceforward, nearly every pic The pixel as the organizing principle of all pictures, from cave paintings to Toy Story. The Great Digital Convergence of all media types into one universal digital medium occurred, with little fanfare, at the recent turn of the millennium. The bit became the universal medium, and the pixel--a particular packaging of bits--conquered the world. Henceforward, nearly every picture in the world would be composed of pixels--cell phone pictures, app interfaces, Mars Rover transmissions, book illustrations, videogames. In A Biography of the Pixel, Pixar cofounder Alvy Ray Smith argues that the pixel is the organizing principle of most modern media, and he presents a few simple but profound ideas that unify the dazzling varieties of digital image making. Smith's story of the pixel's development begins with Fourier waves, proceeds through Turing machines, and ends with the first digital movies from Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky. Today, almost all the pictures we encounter are digital--mediated by the pixel and irretrievably separated from their media; museums and kindergartens are two of the last outposts of the analog. Smith explains, engagingly and accessibly, how pictures composed of invisible stuff become visible--that is, how digital pixels convert to analog display elements. Taking the special case of digital movies to represent all of Digital Light (his term for pictures constructed of pixels), and drawing on his decades of work in the field, Smith approaches his subject from multiple angles--art, technology, entertainment, business, and history. A Biography of the Pixel is essential reading for anyone who has watched a video on a cell phone, played a videogame, or seen a movie.


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The pixel as the organizing principle of all pictures, from cave paintings to Toy Story. The Great Digital Convergence of all media types into one universal digital medium occurred, with little fanfare, at the recent turn of the millennium. The bit became the universal medium, and the pixel--a particular packaging of bits--conquered the world. Henceforward, nearly every pic The pixel as the organizing principle of all pictures, from cave paintings to Toy Story. The Great Digital Convergence of all media types into one universal digital medium occurred, with little fanfare, at the recent turn of the millennium. The bit became the universal medium, and the pixel--a particular packaging of bits--conquered the world. Henceforward, nearly every picture in the world would be composed of pixels--cell phone pictures, app interfaces, Mars Rover transmissions, book illustrations, videogames. In A Biography of the Pixel, Pixar cofounder Alvy Ray Smith argues that the pixel is the organizing principle of most modern media, and he presents a few simple but profound ideas that unify the dazzling varieties of digital image making. Smith's story of the pixel's development begins with Fourier waves, proceeds through Turing machines, and ends with the first digital movies from Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky. Today, almost all the pictures we encounter are digital--mediated by the pixel and irretrievably separated from their media; museums and kindergartens are two of the last outposts of the analog. Smith explains, engagingly and accessibly, how pictures composed of invisible stuff become visible--that is, how digital pixels convert to analog display elements. Taking the special case of digital movies to represent all of Digital Light (his term for pictures constructed of pixels), and drawing on his decades of work in the field, Smith approaches his subject from multiple angles--art, technology, entertainment, business, and history. A Biography of the Pixel is essential reading for anyone who has watched a video on a cell phone, played a videogame, or seen a movie.

48 review for A Biography of the Pixel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Peter O'Kelly

    Related resources to consider: • Interview: https://www.fastcompany.com/90659130/... • Excerpt: https://www.engadget.com/hitting-the-... • Reviews ○ https://www.wired.com/story/pixar-ani... (Steven Levy) ○ https://eandt.theiet.org/content/arti... Related resources to consider: • Interview: https://www.fastcompany.com/90659130/... • Excerpt: https://www.engadget.com/hitting-the-... • Reviews ○ https://www.wired.com/story/pixar-ani... (Steven Levy) ○ https://eandt.theiet.org/content/arti...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Pooja

    DNF. Life's too short for another book about all the men in computing. DNF. Life's too short for another book about all the men in computing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Prasanna

    I was expecting a more narrative style book when I picked it up and found that it went through a whole history of computation and the build up of the movies. The last two chapters get into the more saucy details of Pixar, Steve Jobs, etc. Otherwise it reads more like a technical history book. It helped fill a lot of details in the history of computation and computer graphics for me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Not enough of a story structure for a good narrative and not enough technical details for a useful textbook.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bobby Pourkazemi

  6. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Greenshields

  7. 4 out of 5

    Darryl Jennings

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dieter Bohn

  10. 5 out of 5

    to'c

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dan Flaherty

  12. 4 out of 5

    Henry Mishkoff

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rob

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robert Welland

  15. 5 out of 5

    Molly Mielke

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Patterson

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ed Bosworth

  19. 4 out of 5

    Asima Mishra

  20. 4 out of 5

    Armando Ricalde

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kylah

  22. 5 out of 5

    Timo Van

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jaidev Shriram

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ana-Luiza Rodrigues

  25. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Schneider

  26. 5 out of 5

    Noah

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chrllt

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike Garrity

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amy Brand

  31. 5 out of 5

    Lorenzo Marsicano

  32. 4 out of 5

    Ivan Tanasic

  33. 5 out of 5

    Dеnnis

  34. 5 out of 5

    Ernesto Miquel

  35. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  36. 4 out of 5

    Alex Fleming

  37. 4 out of 5

    Chris Sauley

  38. 5 out of 5

    Sagemane

  39. 5 out of 5

    Tyler K

  40. 4 out of 5

    James

  41. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  42. 5 out of 5

    Yann

  43. 5 out of 5

    Everhard Ortega

  44. 4 out of 5

    Jari Knuutila

  45. 4 out of 5

    Matt Liddy

  46. 5 out of 5

    Josh tcatsninfan

  47. 5 out of 5

    David

  48. 5 out of 5

    Tom Peart

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