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The Night Vision Camcorder And The Nobel Prize

How do cameras, telescopes and the Nobel Prize all fit together? We found out in 2009 when the co-inventors of the CCD were awarded the Nobel Prize.

Over the past several years, winners of the Nobel Prize have generally been more known for research they have been doing in their fields. But the Nobel Prize originally was set up to reward those who created inventions more so than research.

And this year’s award to the two physicists who worked together to invent the CCD returns the prize to inventors once again.

CCD stands for charge-coupled device. This is the internal device that digital cameras and camcorders use to collect and capture the light from a scene and record it internally in the camera. George E. Smith and Willard S Boyle worked at Bell Labs in 1969 where they developed the technology and worked to incorporate it into an actual working model. After their first attempts, they had an operational working prototype approximately one year later. This was the first video camera that worked to record an image digitally rather than using film.

Since the time the CCD was invented, it has totally revolutionized all the areas which depend on image capture.

In addition to quick adoption in cameras and camcorders, CCD technology was also quickly adapted to such items as telescopes and medical imaging devices. The CCD quickly went to space and is used in space probes, spy satellites and astronomical telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Ground based telescopes also quickly converted to CCDs. Viewing film plates taken in long exposures by telescopes is a thing of the past. Now images are captured electronically and viewed and processed on computers.

The tremendous change in photography and video capture has been the change we are all most familiar with. Modern digital cameras and camcorders have quickly switched over to using technology that is a direct descendant of the CCD. Digital photography has quickly replaced film with it’s ease of use and matching quality.

In addition, other uses such as night vision technology for your night vision camcorder and night vision video camera both use advanced CCD sensors to collect and amplify the light. These types of applications were not even available a few decades ago.

The work of Boyle and Smith in inventing the CCD has truly changed the world in a very short time. Their contribution to technology will be long remembered and applauded. If the granting of the Nobel Prize were to be graded by the actual number of human beings affected by the discovery, the invention of the CCD would have to rank either near or at the top of the list.