Bryce Bayer's incredible foresight

Written by Phil Rhodes

Bryce E. BayerBryce E. Bayer

Somehow, I managed to overlook the fact that last month saw the death of Bryce E. Bayer, the man who decided that the best way to make a single-chip colour imaging sensor was to silk-screen a pattern of coloured filters on the front

As a result of this, he's responsible for almost all digital stills and a fair proportion of moving-image work being in colour.

Going by the casual nature of his original note on the technique, which survives, Bayer would probably have been surprised to get a glimpse thirty years into the future. But then, he had been thinking about electronic imaging before it really existed as a technique (another gap Kodak would plug shortly thereafter).

Mid-70s patent

Despite being patented in the mid-70s, Bryce Bayer's work was not otherwise officially recognised until 2009, when the UK's Royal Photographic Society presented him with the progress Award. In 2012, the SMPTE awarded him the first Camera Origination and Imaging Medal. Although modern cameras are starting to have enough resolution to make more advanced patterns possible – with other colours, shades, or white – most of the people reading this article will have a camera using Bayer's design in their pockets, and his name will live on in technical reference for decades at least.

Survived by his wife, sister, two sons, a daughter and three of their children, Bryce Bayer died in Bath, Maine, on November 13 2012. He was 83.

Tags: Technology


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