Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

CCD Image Sensor Inventors Win $500,000 Award 125

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-great-white-north dept.
saskboy writes "CCD inventors were honoured this week. According to CBC News, "Willard Boyle, a Canadian scientist who helped invent the light-sensitive chip, accepted (the prestigious Charles Stark Draper Prize) in the U.S. on Tuesday. Boyle and George Smith will share the $500,000 US award for the invention of the "Charge-Coupled Device (CCD), a light-sensitive component at the heart of digital cameras and other widely used imaging technologies," the U.S. National Academy of Engineering said." Those other devices include the Hubble Space Telescope, and orthoscopic medical instruments. "Boyle and Smith came up with the idea for the device while working at Bell Laboratories in 1969. 'It was after maybe an hour's work,' Boyle recalled. 'We went over to the blackboard and we had some sketching there. We went down to our models lab and made one.'""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

CCD Image Sensor Inventors Win $500,000 Award

Comments Filter:
  • Sweet... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by threedognit3 (854836)
    God bless Lucent and all that it brings.
  • Remember this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SEWilco (27983) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @11:58PM (#14782112) Journal
    Not bad for some bad computer memory.

    Or maybe you're not aware that light sensitivity was considered a peculiar and irritating characteristic of some semiconductor memory. Not much of a problem inside an opaque case, unless nuclear decay or cosmic rays generate a photon...

    • I think there was a project in Byte magazine in the 80s that used an EPROM as a camera image sensor. I forget if it just used the erasing window or if you had to get the EPROM chip naked.
      • Not EPROM, DRAM. You're thinking of the September and October 1983 issues of Byte. Steve Ciarcia wrote about using a DRAM as cheap CCD substitute. I had a subscription at the time and I remember the article talking about popping the lid off of a DRAM. But a Google search (see below) says he was talking about a special DRAM from Micron with a clear window. I dunno, maybe popping the lid off the DRAM was from a different article. That was long ago. I couldn't find the actual article but the following g
        • Nah that's a bunch of bullshit. It was definitely a DRAM with the head of the chip removed. They even gave instructions in the article on how to best do this (though of course, they provided no guarantees...) A pal of mine built one once.
    • Or maybe you're not aware that light sensitivity was considered a peculiar and irritating characteristic of some semiconductor memory.

      Hmmm... ever heard of EPROMs? The kind of chips that used to hold firmware, BIOS software and the like before flash memory arrived on the market? Those chips with a transparent window in them? Program electrically (like flash, but slower), and erase by shining UV light on the chip. Even ordinary sunlight will do if you're patient (couple of weeks, UV lights specialized for

      • UV-erasable EPROM is a different thing than the light-sensitive RAM chips.
      • I seem to remember the original issue with RAM was tracked down to radioisotopes in the ceramic cases decaying.
        • You are referring to the infamous Po-210 issue that IBM had. It actually originated from a faulty bottle-washing machine for one of the acids used in the fab process. The machine was using Po-210 to ionize a jet of air and there was a busted seal that was leaking Po-210 into the empty bottles. It took them years and millions of dollars to figure out what was going wrong. All chips have problems with soft errors, but when there is a problem in your fab and you put a highly radioactive isotope directly in
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @11:58PM (#14782116)
    Take a jar and fill it with marbles. At some point, there just isn't any way to fit more marbles into the jar without breaking either some of the marbles or the jar itself. Consider that between each marble is a little space left over. All that space is wasted, even though you can't fit any more marbles into the jar!

    Now empty the jar and fill it with bread. Once the jar is full, you can press down on the top of the bread and make more room. In fact, you can pretty much keep stuffing bread into the jar for quite a long time. Eventually you'll reach the saturation point and no new bread can be entered into the jar. However, the amount of bread in the jar is many times greater than the number of marbles which we just removed. There was less space between each piece of bread than there was between each marble because the bread is malleable whereas the marble requires a fixed size.

    There's a limit to the pixel density achievable with CCDs. Once the pixelsites get too close together, they interfere with each other electrically and throw off the sensor. CCDs are a nice stopgap measure, but they aren't the bread in the example above.
    • by jamesh (87723) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:11AM (#14782183)
      I'm not sure a jar is the best place to be storing your bread... or your marbles.

      The bread storage problem has been solved for quite a few years now, possibly longer than CCD's have been around. The marble storage problem is probably still a bit open ended, although less important as marbles have a significantly longer shelf life than bread.

      Sorry... i don't think i had a point either.
    • Marbles are a lot denser than bread. At least to start with.
    • Oddly enough ... a professor of mine (well -- talked at orientation, will probably later actually be one of my profs) gave this illustration as some sort of cornball illustration about "obviousness" (if I got the gist of it); basically, he filled a jar with large rocks, asked "Is the jar full?" Some students said Yes (which is true -- *in the sense that it was full of large rocks*); he proved 'em wrong by filling it with smaller rocks instead. Full? No, because there's still sand to go! (Though also true in
      • I remember a vaguely similar demonstration involving a jar of marbles and some sand at school - except this one was part of a chemistry lesson. (I was probably only aged eleven or twelve at the time, so I think the teachers were still in the attempting-to-instil-wonder phase...)

        Anyway. It was used as an analogy for the mixing of (I think) ethanol and water - take 10cm^3 of ethanol, 10cm^3 of water, mix 'em together and you get a bit less than 20cm^3 of liquid resulting.

        It must have been a fairly early exper
      • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Thursday February 23, 2006 @08:26AM (#14783610) Homepage
        Surely your professor based his class on the old joke:

        A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
        So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
        The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up the remaining space. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous 'yes'.

        The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the space between the sand particles. The students laughed.

        Now, said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. "
        "The golf balls are the important things - your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favourite passions - things that if everything else were lost, and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else - the small stuff.

        "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Go out with friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the washing. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

        One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers."
    • Get a bigger jar. One of the problems with digital photography is the tiny, tiny imaging chips make wide angle a pain in the butt. If you can fit eleven megapixels on a 5x7 inch plate, I'll put it in my old view camera.
    • I love you, badanalogyguy.

      Slashdot requires you to wait longer between hitting 'reply' and submitting a comment.

      It's been 11 seconds since you hit 'reply'.

      Chances are, you're behind a firewall or proxy, or clicked the Back button to accidentally reuse a form. Please try again. If the problem persists, and all other options have been tried, contact the site administrator.
      Experi
    • I've been wondering lately what it would take to convert a video camera pan into a stil picture.

      If you were to scan a seen, zoomed in, and then process it, you should be able to get a HUGE picture with a fairly small camera.

      This process would also stabilize the image, blurs don't exist on sufficiently fast movie cameras.

      So thinking along those lines, any "Fuzzy" scene (like ANY zoomed-in scene that I try to shoot with a hand-held) should be able to be filmed as a video, then processed into something with mu
  • Well deserved (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chris6502 (857915) <cclark@nrao.edu> on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @11:59PM (#14782118)

    Having worked for a number of years in the optical astronomy field during the transition from photographic plates to CCD imaging I for one truly appreciate the CCD. No more baking plates in nitrogen and choosing the right emulsion for the wavelength of interest.

    Now, the IR sensitivity was a different matter, played hob with the spectrograph we retrofitted with a CCD camera. First order IR overlapping second order blue.....

  • 1969 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by threedognit3 (854836) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:06AM (#14782159)
    Don't you get it....1969. Not yesterday, not the day before....1969. Most of you pups were still your dad's dreams if he was alive then.
  • about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phlegmofdiscontent (459470) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:06AM (#14782162)
    I'm surprised it's taken this long to give them a prize.
  • For the $500k isn't it? I'm guessing he's made a lot more than that off the patents already for 37 some odd years.
  • ...not to mention... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rknop (240417) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:12AM (#14782192) Homepage
    ...every other optical telescope in the world nowadays.

    CCDs did more to revolutionize astronomy in the 20th century than the Hubble Space Telescope did. They enabled the HST, but also effectively multiplied the size of all ground-based telescopes by a factor of 10-- although it's not so simple as that, as CCDs provide a host of other advantages really making quantitative imaging possible.

    CCDs were huge for astronomy. The "CCD revolution" in the 80's (at least 10 years before most people had really heard of digital cameras) made a big difference.
    • CCDs were huge for astronomy. The "CCD revolution" in the 80's (at least 10 years before most people had really heard of digital cameras) made a big difference.

      Yeah, that usually happens. Research equipment has a whole different level for acceptable component costs than consumer equipment.

      One could argue that CCD's usage in telescopes gave them the money for the development needed to get the price down to what was needed for digital camera use. Then digital cameras allowed development to reach the point t
    • by Shag (3737) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:26AM (#14782252) Homepage
      And as an addendum, "optical" applies of course to not only visible light, but infrared as well. This seems obvious to you and me, but a lot of people don't make the connection right away.

      This is a well-timed story for me, since I'm at the controls of a 2.2-meter optical scope right now, with a 2048x2048 CCD as the main instrument for the first half of the night, and a 512x512 CCD on the guider camera. :)

      CCDs are my friends!
      • And as an addendum, "optical" applies of course to not only visible light, but infrared as well. This seems obvious to you and me, but a lot of people don't make the connection right away.

        Well, some infrared. But, yes, I've come to think of everything shorter than 1 micron as "optical" even though our eye can't see all of that.

        Which 'scope are you at?

        -Rob
        • I'm operating this [hawaii.edu] scope. Not a lot of aperture, but a decent enough site. ;)

          I occasionally also stare at the sky over at this [keckobservatory.org] other place around the corner from the first one, but in a much less significant capacity. :(

          We likes the big shiny toys, my preciousss...

    • ...every other optical telescope in the world nowadays.

      It's not as prevalent anymore; CMOS is gaining considerable ground in a lot of different imaging fields.

      Canon, for example, uses CMOS sensors in all its digital SLRs; noise, power consumption, speed of "reading" the sensor (I think), and dynamic range are all much better. CMOS's only real technical downside is that there is a non-sensor component next to every sensor well. However, CMOS sensors are harder/more expensive to come by. They also aren

      • CMOS and CCD arent much different in final image quality. DALSA (one of the two manufacturers in the world of large format sensor chips, the other being Kodak) has a white paper on this. They make both CMOS and CCD chips.

        The choice of which to use is usually dictated by other concerns like which goes better with an existing manufacturing line, or other electrical engineering issues.

        Currently, most chips larger than 35mm are CCD. All the medium format backs I know use CCD versus CMOS (interesting fact..th
        • CMOS is nice since you can make a large format detector easier; but then the downside is to make the detector sensitivity uniform (quantum efficiency uniformity), which determines the flatness of the field.

          Quite frankly I'm impressed with what Cannon did with its CMOS detectors. It must have a good on-board correction?
    • Totally agree, but there are areas where CCDs still cannot compete with photographic methods. Namely wide field imaging. Specifically I am thinking of schmidt cameras. Until they can grow a silicon wafer that big CCDs aren't going to compete. Think of the size of the UK Scmidt camera for instance, IIRC the film size is way beyond anything that can be made from a single silicon wafer. And it needs to be curved to conform to the focal plane.

      Even on a smaller scale a 6 inch square photographic plate packs mo

      • But there's stitching, and then there's stacking... while a single exposure is obviously superior to a stitched set, nobody (if they can help it) makes do with a single exposure of something, right? :)
  • Yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone (681598) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:25AM (#14782249)
    1969. Back when we were building things. Inventing things. Making things better. We were actually investing in the future then.

    Now it would require a "business case" before anyone would be allowed a moment to think about CCD image sensors, much less build them. Some rat fuck middle management asscrack would probably write the group up for "unauthorized use of business resources" and start drawing up requests for department-wide layoffs.

    That's of course assuming brilliant people like these men who could "after maybe an hour's work, we went over to the blackboard and we had some sketching there. We went down to our models lab and made one" would get hired in the first place. They'd be declared "overqualified" or lacking "marketable skills" before they were even interviewed.

    We were on the doorstep of the solar system almost 40 years ago. Now we're all parked in front of plasma televisions bought on 28% credit watching "reality shows." Talk about toilet-ramming the future. This is what happens when entire generations of education are wasted on purpose. What a fucking waste.

    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:41AM (#14782315)
      Some rat fuck middle management asscrack would probably write the group up for "unauthorized use of business resources" and start drawing up requests for department-wide layoffs.

      I honestly can't figure out if you're serious or not. Probably doesn't help that you were modded insightful- now you seem to be moderated funny, but I suspect you were not trying to be...

      What a bunch of crap. You're buying partially into the romanticization of historical inventors, and ignoring the fact that you only really hear about the people who were NOT shut down, the projects that were not abandoned because of penny pinchers, etc.

      Talking about the "good old days" when inventors just picked money from trees, never had to justify research, didn't struggle against powermongering and corporate politics etc...is a bunch of pure, complete, uneducated, knee-jerk bullshit.

      • You're buying partially into the romanticization of historical inventors

        No. I'm buying into present-day powdered-donut stuffing fatass-wedged hairpiece cheat fuck liar middle managers. Don't have to romanticize inventors. They're right there in TFA.

        didn't struggle against powermongering and corporate politics etc

        Wasn't anywhere NEAR as destructive as it is today. Not even on the map. Nice try.

        • No. I'm buying into present-day powdered-donut stuffing fatass-wedged hairpiece cheat fuck liar middle managers. Don't have to romanticize inventors. They're right there in TFA.

          I can't imagine why you'd ever have a negative relationship with your manager... or why you might have been fired.

          • I can't imagine why you'd ever have a negative relationship with your manager

            Not difficult when the manager is a lying cheat fuck.

            or why you might have been fired

            When you see near-perfect employees fired and physically shoved out of the building, being fired doesn't really matter any more. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with how good someone is at their job any more. It's all about greed, lying and more greed.

      • You either are young and naive; you live in one of the few spots that haven't been MBA'd to death; or you are one of those managers yourself.

        Sure the 'good old days' weren't as rosy as some make out - but they were still at least 100% more receptive to new ideas, invention and innovation than those today.

        If you have a good idea today your best chance is to pursue it in your own time and hope to hell that someone somewhere doesn't think you have been unwise enough to agree that your soul is theirs 24 hou

    • Someone mod this up insightful, the funny mark doesn't do it justice

      It's like HP, their motto is "HP - Invent", that was 50 years ago, now they're a company that sells ink with region locked chips (this 'feature' may/may not be a reality... yet)
    • I would moderate this post as "insightful" not "funny".
    • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2006 @01:06AM (#14782386)
      "We were on the doorstep of the solar system almost 40 years ago. Now we're all parked in front of plasma televisions bought on 28% credit watching "reality shows." Talk about toilet-ramming the future. This is what happens when entire generations of education are wasted on purpose. What a fucking waste."

      You're too kind. 'Wasted' implies a mere passive neglect, rather than 'subverted' which is more the truth.
      You assume an educated population is desirable - bzzzt wrong, they want you as dumb as can be and easy to control. You're right, we passed that golden age up, smart and independent thinkers are not desirable in
      a the new regime. Its just too - 'unpredictable'.

      Nobody wants rogue minds working on their own, people who might not be 'on side'. They're scared. They're frightened shitless of progress, of technology, of people like us who might turn their little world on its head with a single daydream. Their way is to subvert technology, Einstein gives us e=mc2 and they figure out how to make bombs. These guys invent CCDs and they stick them on every street corner to spy on people.
      Little exposes the malignant pathology of a person so much as the uses they seek in technology.

      But don't cry for the plasma TV generation. They are actually happy, They relish their ignorance, it protects them and they will defend the right to be a dumbass to the hilt. That shiny box made in China means more to them than any idea, any morality, any person. We are in the minority, depressed and traumatised watching the silence of the lambs, powerless to help or inform. Sometimes I'd like to unlearn everything I know, take a job in the car wash and sit in front of a 56" expensive toy I don't own while I drink cheap beer, but it doesn't work that way, no turning back the hands of time.

      please may I have a +5 funny mod too, you weak spineless cowards.
      • Re:Yeah (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Grismar (840501)
        What really gets me here is that you seem to think you're actually better than people watching their plasma screens. I don't mind you thinking you're better off doing something else with your time. I can also see how the world would become a better place for you (and possibly a lot of the /. public) if all these people got off their couches and behind a keyboard.

        But really, what moral advantage do you have over them? And how exactly would the world become a better place for them? As some other poster alread
        • Gee, let's see, what "moral advantage" does someone who thinks and works hard have over someone who refuses to think and relishes in ignorance and laziness. I don't know .. gosh .. this question is just so hard to answer.

          </sarcasm>

        • I can also see how the world would become a better place for you (and possibly a lot of the /. public) if all these people got off their couches and behind a keyboard.

          You insensitive klahd... I'm sitting on a *sofa* and I happen to also be sitting behind *two* keyboards listening to a web streamed simulcast of a concert in New Jersey (3000 miles away in meatspace) on one Linux box while recording the Olympics broadcast on my other Linux box, posting on /. and kicking back post work, having some supper.

          Y

      • Sometimes I'd like to unlearn everything I know, take a job in the car wash and sit in front of a 56" expensive toy I don't own while I drink cheap beer, but it doesn't work that way, no turning back the hands of time.

        You should have taken the Blue Pill ...

      • they want you as dumb as can be and easy to control.

        Who are "they"?
    • Somebody's been reading a bit too much Neal Stephenson lately.
    • Yup! Because, as everyone knows, middle managers didn't exist back in the 60s. Well, wait a minute--if we haven't invented anything new since the 60s, I guess they must have been invented back then. But surely nobody had any.

      And technology really hasn't really changed any since 1969. I mean, apart from some new style sheets, Slashdot today is basically the same as it was back then, right?

      How insightful!


      larry

      • Because, as everyone knows, middle managers didn't exist back in the 60s.

        They existed, and their job was fighting for their people. General Motors fires 30,000 people now and nobody gives a shit. It's all the employee's fault, of course. They didn't have enough "marketable skills." General Motors firing 30,000 people in 1969 would have resulted in a national outrage that would have made history.

        Well, wait a minute--if we haven't invented anything new since the 60s

        Well we did invent $7000 televisions an
        • Well we did invent $7000 televisions and 28% credit cards. That's progress I guess.

          Corrected for inflation, TVs before the '60s costed a lot more than they do now, corrected for current money, they could be more than $20,000 (current money) for an average set then.

          I haven't heard of 28% credit cards, I would think those would be going to the people that shouldn't ever have a credit card.
          • Re:Yeah (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cubicledrone (681598)
            Corrected for inflation, TVs before the '60s costed a lot more than they do now

            Corrected for inflation, wages have plummeted in the last 30 years.

            I haven't heard of 28% credit cards, I would think those would be going to the people that shouldn't ever have a credit card.

            Like college students. No better way to fuck over somebody's finances than to bury them in debt before they even get a job. Give them $20,000 in student loans and $20,000 in 28% credit card debt and watch them fail. It's fun for the whole
            • Pretty much agree with you, with the following exception: no one says you have to borrow money. Anyone who borrows at 28% needs to be spanked. And as far as school loans go -It's a choice, and if you think borrowing to go to school is a bad idea, don't do it. Go to community school and a state school and you can easily get your degree without any debt. And if you don't wan't to pay half a million for a house in California, then move to the midwest and buy one for 50K-100K one year's income.
    • Yet, somehow Foveon had managed to make improvements by making a three layer CMOS sensor so you can use one single sensor and still record the red, green and blue for every single pixel. Most digital cameras are single chip, but alternate what color is detected based on pixel location, causing some issues occasionally.
    • by JimB (9642)
      I am NOT arguing with 'cubicledrone'. I agree with him(?). I have ONE question to ask ANYONE who is 'casting aspersions' on his opinion:

      "If Penzias & Wilson were doing satellite communication experiments in 2003, How much time would they be given to explain why their instrument was 2% off in it's readings ????"

      The ovvious answer, which we all know would be: "Put a damned resistor in there and force it to zero and get on with your work !"
  • Did you mean arthroscopic? Or, more generally, endoscopic?
    Of course, that was some orthoscopic fix on Hubble!
  • pHaSeD ArRaY... New...but not as fattening.
  • Bell Lab a.k.a. Lucent got the rewards not these guys. Had this been the 90's they would have bolted and started a Silicon Valley start up...then they would have been mill....bill...zillonaires. These guys are getting ATT/B3ll Labs pensions...which isn't much.
  • Overlooked (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Igor is overdue for the invention of the wheel 200,000 years ago.
  • by ChePibe (882378) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @01:52AM (#14782559)
    But at the earth [wikipedia.org] as well.

    This invention really contributed to keeping the Cold War from heating up - reconnaissance satellites equipped with this technology were very useful to ensuring all sides kept their ends of the bargain during various arms control treaties. Not to mention their usefulness in charting maps and letting us all see from a new perspective [google.com].

    It's kind of funny when you think about it, but this little invention has broadened our understanding of the entire universe while helping prevent us from blowing each other up down here on earth at the same time. You just can't say that about many things. Great work, gentlemen. Great work.

    • And let's not forget how it revolutionised amateur Internet porn.

      Great work, gentlemen. Great work.

      /Surely this deserves an award?
      //Nobel?
    • Actually, the vast majority of recon sats used during the Cold War used film instead of CCDs and ejected their film cannisters to the earth. Digital remote sensing didn't really start taking off until the Cold War was nearly at an end.
      • With the KH-11's appearence in 1977, the CCD made a great leap forward in immediate intelligence gathering for the last 13 years or so of the Cold War - crucial years by anyone's standard.

        The CCD wasn't the only imaging technology to be sure, but it made big contributions.

        Thanks for your comment!
  • I seem to have forgotten, but I do recall reading somewhere about Ray Kurzweil's involvement in CCD scanning. I know he utilized the technology in his sight reading machines for the blind, and he made some sort of deal involving the scanning technology with Xerox. Anyone else remember this? I don't have my copy of The Age of Spiritual Machines handy.
  • If they had gotten a restrictive corporation-style patent on that technology, they would have made billions of dollars. Sure, industry and inovation would be hampered, but that's a small price to pay for someone getting obscenely rich with money he couldn't spend in a donzen lifetimes...
  • Too bad the winners of American Idol will get more money and notoriety than these guys.

  • I wonder if the guys who invented the CMOS will also get a prize.

    Comparison and history of both types of chips. [dalsa.com]

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

Working...