Digital image processing dates back to the 1950s . Pioneer Dr. Robert Nathan of JPL helped develop imaging equipment to map the moon in 1959. In 1961, analog image data from Ranger spacecraft was transferred to digital data using a video film converter, and digitally processed by what NASA referred to as a small NCR 102D computer (it filled a room).
Many of the algorithms used in today’s machine vision systems were developed in the 1960s. A huge milestone occurred in the 1970s when Dr. Alexander Sawchuck, who was tired of using standard text images to compare the results of image processing algorithms, digitized what was to become one of the most popular test images of the late 20th century. Using a Muirhead wirephoto scanner, Dr. Sawchuk digitized the top third of Lena Soderberg’s Playboy magazine centerfold image. Notable for its detail, color, and high- and low-frequency regions, the image became very popular in numerous research papers published in the 1970s.