BSAC Technology Seminar: A Biography of the Pixel

September 16, 2022

Tuesday, 04 October 2022 at Noon | 490 Cory Hall

Watch video here.

Dr. Alvy Ray Smith

Co-Founder Pixar and Altamira Software
First Director of Computer Graphics at LucasFilms
Host: Jonathan Candelaria


Nearly all pictures that exist (or have ever existed) are digital--that is, made of pixels. Yet hardly anybody knows what a pixel is. A very common misunderstanding is that pixels are little squares, but they never have been. In fact, they are not visible. I will explore this mystery and many others that come into focus once the basics are clearly understood. From this comes a rewrite of the histories of the sampling theorem, movies, television, computers, digital displays, and, of course, computer graphics, and other specialty branches of what I call Digital Light. Moore's Law is shown to be the driving force of high technology--of more than supernova strength and beyond any person's understanding.


Alvy Ray Smith co-founded Pixar and Altamira Software. He was the first Director of Computer Graphics at Lucasfilm and the first Graphics Fellow at Microsoft. He has received two technical Academy Awards for his contributions to digital movie-making technology. His book, A Biography of the Pixel, issued about a year ago from MIT Press.

Dr. Smith holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford University (dissertation: Cellular Automata Theory). He received an honorary doctorate from New Mexico State University, his undergraduate alma mater, in Dec 1999. He received an honorary doctorate from the New York Institute of Technology, where the group now known as Pixar first came together, in May 2022.

Registration has closed.

Interested in nominating someone to speak at the BSAC Technology Seminar? We welcome you to submit a speaker nomination here

Watch this BSAC Technology Seminar

A Biography of the Pixel

October 4, 2022
BSAC Technology Seminar Series
Dr. Alvy Ray Smith, Co-Founder Pixar and Altamira Software
First Director of Computer Graphics at LucasFilms
Hosted by Berkeley Sensor & Actuator Center

Upcoming Events

BSAC Technology Seminar Committee

Jonathan Candelaria
Dalene Schwartz Corey