Picture fuddling by computer (Apr, 1971)

Picture fuddling by computer

Can you identify this face? It’s a well-known President who freed the slaves and was shot in Ford’s theatre. Still stumped? Try viewing it at arm’s length, or squinting, or jiggling the page rapidly. This picture represents a Bell Labs experiment to learn the least amount of visual information a picture can contain and still be recognizable—of some concern to designers of Picture- phones. Here a computer has riven a portrait into 200 squares, each rendered in an even tone of gray along an intensity scale from one to sixteen.

  1. Scott B. says: August 4, 20117:41 am


  2. Chode says: August 4, 20119:05 am

    It’s clearly Taft.

  3. Andrew L. Ayers says: August 4, 201111:15 am

    Nah – it’s definitely Japanese pr0n… 😉

  4. Hirudinea says: August 4, 20115:05 pm

    I don’t remember a President Pixelface?

  5. Steven S says: August 4, 20115:05 pm

    Just watch how the news covers political affairs–it’s Ronald Reagan–he freed the slaves, crossed the Delaware, and left everybody with cleaner, whiter teeth!

  6. Zha Zhaaa says: August 4, 20116:32 pm

    Early Chuck Close?

  7. G. L. Tyrebyter says: August 5, 20111:00 am

    This picture of Lincoln is pixelated differently than images are done today. This works better when you take the entire area the block takes up on the original image and average it out. Most pixelating is now done by just taking the pixel value in the top left corner of the block space and just iterating it. This makes the image far less easy to recognize. The averaging of the shading actually contains more information that the brain can interpret better.

  8. Toronto says: August 5, 20115:36 am

    Tyrebyter: why would anyone “pixelate” by the method you describe, other than to save cycles? (And cpu cycles are cheap these days.). Are you suggesting “thumbnails” are produced that way?

    If you take a 12 megapixel (4k by 3k pixels) image and reduce it to 25×19 pixels, that’s 25600 integer adds and one bit shift per each of about 500 output pixels: not much work on a 2 GHz processor.

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