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Charged Coupled Device (CCD) (1969)

Electrical/Electronic inventions that changed the world


Charged Coupled Device (CCD) (1969) – Willard Boyle and George E. Smith


The charged-coupled device (CCD), is the basis of digital and video cameras but started out with the intent of a new form of memory. In 1969 Willard Boyle and George Smith of Bell Laboratories, New Jersey USA were discussing new areas of research and technologies and decided to merge two developing technologies, ‘semiconductor bubble memory’ and the ‘video phone’.



Boyle and Smith worked on a new principal of handling small ‘packets’ of electrical charge stored on a silicon chip similar to the work being conducted by other on moving microscopic ‘bubbles of magnetism’ around, on various material. Boyle and Smith called there invention the ‘charged coupled device’.


It soon became clear that the small packets of electrical charge central to the operation of the CCD could be deposited using the photoelectric effect, which established that incoming photons from light sources could be captured. By the end of 1969 Boyle and Smith were able to use their new device to take electronic images at Bell Laboratories.



Various companies began developing the CCD, and in 1974 the first commercial device was released by Fairchild Semiconductor, capable of capturing an image that measured 100x100 pixels. Today CCD’s are widespread in astronomical telescopes, scanners, and bar code readers as well as robotic vision and of course in everyday digital camera’s



Eur Ing Dr Robert Brown (Robert) is the Executive Director of Fraser George and Associates Limited and is a Consultant and Forensic Engineer in the fields Electrical Electronic and Control Engineering.


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