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dated: 2022-11-20 15:16:47 .
In his new book How Sex Changed the Internet and How the Internet Changed Sex: An Unexpected Story, Samantha Cole follows the twisted story of “Lena Centerfold,” the Playboy image that has become the international standard for teaching computers to recognize images. Taken in 1972, the image has remained in computer science for decades, even inspiring engineering student authors in 2015. The image and its ubiquity symbolize sexism and male dominance for many young women who have tried their hand at the field.
And the woman herself, Lena? Read on to see how her own image became alien to her.
In 1972, Lena Sjööblom retired from modeling playboyShe took a picture of herself naked, got paid and went on with her life.
It was the first and last time that Lena posed naked. She refused Hugh Hefner’s personal invitation to visit his mansion. She continued to attend shows with Kodak, posing for “Shirley Cards” (named after the first model to pose for one, a white brunette Kodak employee named Shirley Page), who helped technicians adjust lighting and color balance on film calibration. Your friends thought so playboy The anecdote was a funny little thing, but for Lena this photo was a thing of the past.
But for the rest of the world, Lena changed the Internet.
A few months after this issue playboy The hit reads, at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Signal and Image Processing, electrical engineer Alexander Sawchuk and his team have been working on image processing algorithms for computers. They used “test images”—a specific set of photos shared by all imaging labs so that each lab worked to the same standard—to put their image compression algorithms through their paces. The team’s work eventually contributed to the development of the JPEG file format, one of the most common image formats we still use today.
None of the historical retellings of Leah’s story seem to include (or care to reveal) exactly who brought her playboy work that day. But most opinions agree that when they needed a new image to scan into the Hewlett-Packard 2100 minicomputer, the November 1972 issue of the magazine. playboy he was chosen out of convenience. They were tired of the old test images and wanted a photo with a human face, interesting textures and a glossy finish to push the limits of technology. The center crease was perfect.
They cropped Lea’s magazine photo from the shoulders up, making the photo safe for work. Some attributed the work of harvesting to taste or tact; more likely it was a technical thing. The top 5.12 inches of the page fit into Muirhead’s wire photo scanner, producing a 512 x 512 pixel image.
The image served their purpose so well that they gave the scan to other researchers working on similar imaging tasks, and it eventually became so widely used that it was adopted as an industry-wide standard. Other test images were used at the time, but Lena became the established standard that labs across the country could agree on. Part of her lasting legacy is fueled by controversy. Over the course of two decades, until then, Lea’s image spread quietly and uncontrollably playboy even noticed. to the publisher did note if trade journal optical engineering Lena put it on the cover in July 1991, it was too late to try to rewrite it – the publisher gave permission for educational and research use instead.
But copyright infringement was not the cause of the dispute. With the dot-com explosion of the tech world simultaneously offering everyone a promising future, women have built, moderated and hosted BBS servers, MUDs and their own websites right up there with the Old Boys’ Club. But women were still not considered equal competitors and peers to their male counterparts in the computer world. The tentative Lena image, some have argued, is just another artifact of the careless patriarchal thinking that has dominated the past thirty years. Some have called for the image to be withdrawn.
Chief and responsible editor of the magazine IEEE Transactions on Image Processing David Munson Jr. he wrote an open letter in 1996 addressing these complaints. His judgment was not to censor the use of Lena, but if there are other equally useful options, researchers should opt for these instead. “In cases where another image will serve your purpose just as well, why not use that other image?” Munson wrote. The problem seemed to be solved.
Lena herself did not notice anything about it for years. Living quietly in Sweden, she was unaware of the furor her photography had caused among geeks in the US. It wasn’t until she was invited to the 50th annual conference of the Society for Imaging Science and Technology in 1997 that she realized the extent to which her image had been used, let alone as the gold standard for more than twenty years. Until then, she had not even accessed the Internet.
The conference was a surreal experience for Lena, mostly because all these people, mostly white engineers, had never thought about their real, physical existence before. You put them Weird science A woman from her academic days, a series of pixels and colors that she studied closely but never saw as part of a whole person.
Attitudes towards experimentation with women’s bodies and images push women out of the industry before they even have a chance to start. In 2015, Maddie Zug, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, wrote a comment on the washington post about her experience as one of a handful of colleagues tasked with using Lena’s image for a coding project. The teacher warned her not to look for the picture. Of course, the first thing everyone in that computer room did was look for the original and pull the entire center crease on their screens.
“I was 16 at the time and had a hard time believing that I belonged in a male-dominated computer science class,” Zug wrote. “I tried to block the boy’s sexual comments. Why does an advanced school of science, technology, engineering and mathematics use a playboy A switch in his classrooms?”
Today, female tech students still have many of the same complaints as when they started: gender pay gaps, advancement opportunities that are biased toward men, and sexist attitudes are still on the rise in tech. Going through a computer class where the week’s lesson is a story about a bunch of guys and their clueless game buddies is salt in the wound.
Although Lena is now in her seventies and a grandmother, she doesn’t seem to have any strong opinions about the use of her image. Although the test image still haunts our modern machines like a nostalgic nod, current image processing researchers occasionally use it in their work. But in recent years, several journals and institutions have announced that they will completely ban submissions featuring Lena, including the Optical Society, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the entire family of about 150 Nature magazines.
For some in the picture world, Lena has simply outlived her usefulness. In his farewell letter in 2018 as editor-in-chief of the magazine IEEE Transactions, Scott Acton challenged his colleagues to think beyond the old standbys. The Lena crop contains about 260,000 pixels – pretty good for its time. iPhone 11 image released in 2019 has more than 12,000,000.
Five years after Lena’s Miss November, the Apple II would be the first graphics-enabled personal computer to enter American homes. However, before image processing reached the masses, people were satisfied with what they had: text assembled into mosaics.
Adjusted according to How Sex Changed the Internet and How the Internet Changed Sex: An Unexpected Story by Samantha Cole. © 2022 workers
Image: Courtesy of Workman
How the “Playboy” switcher became part of JPEG creation
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