A Brief History Of The Scanner

The world today is turning digital in droves, and everything, from books to home appliances, is connecting online.

While the internet has certainly played a central role in driving this digital revolution, one piece of technology has been a catalyst.

Just as the printing press brought books to the masses, scanners brought paper to the computer. Digital copies of important documents can now be made. Contracts can be digitally signed before their original copies are, and old damaged photos can be brought back to life with added color and detail.

So how did the scanner become the essential document digitizing tool it is today?

seac scanner
The SEAC Scanner


The building block of the technology behind the image scanner was telephotography. While the telegraph transferred text from one location to another, telephotography did the same for images in the early 20th century. The technology available at the time of telephotography was limited and its costs were relatively high.

The First Computer Scanner

The Standard Eastern Automatic Computer Scanner (SEAC) scanner, the first scanner invented for use with a computer, was invented in the 1950s. Inventors, companies, and engineers were becoming more aware of the potential of computers beyond mere computation. While working at the US National Bureau of Standards, Russel A Kirsch came up with the idea of using a photomultiplier, a mask, and a rotating drum to allow the scanner to transfer a copy of a photo into pixels.

history of scanners
The first scanned image.

The first image scanned (which also became the first digital photo, since digital cameras were invented much later) was of Russel Kirsch’s three-month old son.

Scanners Today

Scanners have come a long way since the first scanned image in 1957. Not only can we now carry document and image scanners in our pockets (as apps in smartphones), but the technology has evolved beyond 2D scanning, with entire objects, faces, and bodies being scanned by 3D scanners.


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About Mohamed Zeineldine

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