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Digital imaging or digital image acquisition is the creation of digital images, typically from a physical scene. The term is often assumed to imply or include the processing, compression, storage, printing, and display of such images. The most usual method is by digital photography with a digital camera but other methods are also employed.
Digital imaging was developed in the 1960s and 1970s, largely to avoid the operational weaknesses of film cameras, for scientific and military missions including the KH-11 program. As digital technology became cheaper in later decades it replaced the old film methods for many purposes.
The first digital image was produced in 1920, by the Bartlane cable picture transmission system. British inventors, Harry G. Bartholomew and Maynard D. McFarlane, developed this method. The process consisted of “a series of negatives on zinc places that were exposed for varying lengths of time, thus producing varying densities,” . In 1927, Philo T. Farnsworth established the first electronic television. This television used an electronic scanning tube as well as a cathode ray tube that could administer and display different images. In 1957, Russell Kirsch produced a device that generated digital data that could be stored in a computer; this was made possible by his use of a drum scanner and photomultiplier tube .
These different types of scanning ideas were the basis of the first designs of the digital camera. The first cameras took a long time to capture an image and were not ideal for consumer purposes  It wasn’t until the development of the CCD (charge-coupled device) that the digital camera really took off. The CCD became part of the imaging systems used in telescopes, the first black and white digital cameras and video recorders in the 1980s . Color was eventually added to the CCD and is the basis of color that exists in cameras that we use today.
Digital imaging has the capabilities of producing surrealistic, out of this world, yet fully believable images. The technology behind a typical photograph and digital image are very different from one another. Photography that is film-based contains, “a number of chemical reactions to produce a print or transparency,” . Whereas, a digital image is associated with, “the capturing of an image, uploading it to a computer, manipulating it, and finally outputting the finished picture,” . The digital imaging process begins with the acquisition of an electronic or photographic image. Regardless of the type of image, after it is captured, it must be converted to digital data . The digital data is then fed into a computer, where a professional quality image is produced. Digital imaging can do anything from, “anchor pictured objects” to “bend, twist, stretch and contort physical objects in cartoonlike ways,” . Once in the hands of a powerful machine, like a computer, digital imaging has endless possibilities. According to Grotta, every pixel can be changed, moved or deleted, and that is the very essence of what digital imaging is all about .
Great strides have been made in the field of digital imaging. Negatives and exposure have become foreign concepts to many, as the first digital image in 1920 was the dawn of cheaper equipment, increasingly powerful yet simple software, and the growth of the Internet.
The constant advancement and production of physical equipment and hardware related to digital imaging has effected the environment surrounding the field. From cameras and webcams to printers and scanners, the hardware is becoming sleeker, thinner, faster, and cheaper. As the cost of equipment decreases, the market for new enthusiasts widens, allowing more consumers to experience the thrill of creating their own images.
But it’s not only the imaging equipment that’s becoming more advanced. Our everyday personal laptops, family desktops, and company computers are saddled with the muscle to handle top quality hardware and software. Our computers are more powerful machines with increasing capacities for running programs of any kind—especially digital imaging software. And that software is quickly becoming both smarter and simpler. Although functions on today’s programs reach the level of precise editing and even rendering 3-D images, user interfaces are designed to be friendly to advanced users as well as first-time fans.
Finally, the importance of the Internet to digital imaging cannot be overlooked. A perfect ground for editing, viewing, and sharing digital photos and graphics, the Internet’s ever-increasing growth and popularity in turn provides the same success for the field of digital imaging. A quick browse around the web can easily turn up graphic artwork from budding artists, news photos from around the world, corporate images of new products and services, and much more. The Internet has clearly proven itself a catalyst in fostering the growth of digital imaging.
Digital imaging has demonstrated its worth in a variety of fields from education to medicine. As digital projectors, screens, and graphics find their way to the classroom, teachers and students alike are benefitting from the increased convenience and communication they provide, although their theft can be a common problem in schools . In addition acquiring a basic digital imaging education is becoming increasingly important for young professionals. Reed, a design production expert from Western Washington University, stressed the importance of using “digital concepts to familiarize students with the exciting and rewarding technologies found in one of the major industries of the 21st century”.
The field of medical imaging, a branch of digital imaging that seeks to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, is growing at a rapid rate. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that proper imaging of children who may have appendicitis may reduce the amount of appendectomies needed. Further advancements include amazingly detailed and accurate imaging of the brain, lungs, tendons, and other parts of the body—images that can be used by health professionals to better serve patients.
Although theories are quickly becoming realities in today’s technological society, the range of possibilities for digital imaging is wide open. One major application that is still in the works is that of child safety and protection. How can we use digital imaging to better protect our kids? Kodak’s program, Kids Identification Digital Software (KIDS) may answer that question. The beginnings include a digital imaging kit to be used to compile student identification photos, which would be useful during medical emergencies and crimes. More powerful and advanced versions of applications such as these are still developing, with increased features constantly being tested and added .
But parents and schools aren’t the only ones who see benefits in databases such as these. Criminal investigation offices, such as police precincts, state crime labs, and even federal bureaus have realized the importance of digital imaging in analyzing fingerprints and evidence, making arrests, and maintaining safe communities. As the field of digital imaging evolves, so does our ability to protect the public.
A digital photograph may be created directly from a physical scene by a camera or similar device. Alternatively, a digital image may be obtained from another image in an analog medium, such as photographs, photographic film, or printed paper, by an image scanner or similar device. Many technical images—such as those acquired with tomographic equipment, side-scan sonar, or radio telescopes—are actually obtained by complex processing of non-image data. Weather radar maps as seen on television news are a commonplace example. The digitalization of analog real-world data is known as digitizing, and involves sampling (discretization) and quantization.
Digital image authentication is an issue  for the providers and producers of digital images such as health care organizations, law enforcement agencies and insurance companies. There are methods emerging in forensic photography to analyze a digital image and determine if it has been altered.
There are several benefits of digital imaging. First, the process enables easy access of photographs and word documents. Google is at the forefront of this ‘revolution,’ with its mission to digitize the world’s books. Such digitization will make the books searchable, thus making participating libraries, such as Stanford University and the University of California Berkley, accessible worldwide . Digital imaging also benefits the medical world because it “allows the electronic transmission of images to third-party providers, referring dentists, consultants, and insurance carriers via a modem” . The process “is also environmentally friendly since it does not require chemical processing” .
Benefits also exist regarding photographs. Digital imaging will reduce the need for physical contact with original images . Furthermore, digital imaging creates the possibility of reconstructing the visual contents of partially damaged photographs, thus eliminating the potential that the original would be modified or destroyed . In addition, photographers will be “freed from being ‘chained’ to the darkroom,” will have more time to shoot and will be able to cover assignments more effectively . Digital imaging ‘means’ that “photographers no longer have to rush film their film to the office, so they can stay on location longer while still meeting deadlines” .
Critics of digital imaging cite several negative consequences. An increased “flexibility in getting better quality images to the readers” will tempt editors, photographers and journalists to manipulate photographs . In addition, “staff photographers will no longer be photojournalistists, but camera operators…as editors have the power to decide what they want ‘shot’” . Legal constraints, including copyright, pose another concern: will copyright infringement occur as documents are digitized and as companies such as Google promote digitization?
Digital imaging also negatively affects organizations with financial limits. As the desire to preserve museum pieces digitally increases, so does the demand for experience and interdisciplinary knowledge about the new imaging technologies. Unfortunately, “probably only a few museum professionals and collection managers are likely to have” such skills – and many museums cannot afford to hire such techies or purchase new imaging technologies .