Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Earlier this week, Canadian physicist Willard Sterling Boyle was awakened by a 5 am phone call from Stockholm. The caller informed him that he would share the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics for co-developing the charge-coupled device (CCD), an imaging semiconductor circuit which is today the heart of digital photography and videography. Not so long ago spy planes shot film over their target and brought it home for development. Today pilots in the Nevada desert fly drones over Afganistan using CCD imaging devices as their eyes, in real time. We owe Boyle for the pictures from the Hubble telescope and the Mars rovers, and for all of those vacation and birthday videos, uploaded to YouTube for distant family members to enjoy. Here at NVM we profit daily from his invention. We talk of "3-CCD" video cameras and digitize still and moving images for computer editing, web site posting, email attachments and DVD video, to name some of the outcomes of his work. Boyle is 85 years old and so in addition to being thankful to him for his vast contribution to our lives I think we should thank the Nobel committee too, for ensuring that he knows how much we value his contribution while time remains for him to enjoy the celebrity.