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Imaging tech inventors winners of top honors

January 08, 2006

Techbits



The inventors of a light-sensitive component integral to digital cameras, camcorders and medical imagers will share a $500,000 award for work that has revolutionized how people view themselves, the world and the universe.

Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, who developed the Charge-Coupled Device while at Bell Laboratories, will share the annual Charles Stark Draper Prize presented by the National Academy of Engineering. The honor was announced Wednesday.

In 1969, Boyle and Smith were trying to figure out a way for semiconductors to store data when they sketched out the design of the CCD, which would become the first practical solid-state imaging device.

The CCD's surface is covered by semiconductor capacitors that hold an electrical charge proportional to the intensity of light striking it. That information can then be moved to a single output detector for processing by a computer.

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Besides consumer electronics, the ultra-sensitive devices have been used in a variety of medical imaging machines, space telescopes and remote-sensing cameras. The Hubble Space Telescope, Mars rovers and other spacecraft all incorporate CCDs.

The academy, part of the National Academies - created by Congress as a science and technology advisory organization - also awarded the $500,000 Bernard M. Gordon Prize to the founders of the Learning Factory, an undergraduate education program designed to give students experience in solving challenges posed by industry.

The Learning Factory originated from a coalition formed by three universities, Sandia National Laboratories and 36 industrial partners. Founders Jens E. Jorgensen, John S. Lamancusa, Lueny Morell, Allen L. Soyster and Jose Zayas-Castro will be honored.

Both prizes will be presented Feb. 21 in Washington, D.C.

- Matthew Fordahl, AP




LONDON (AP) - Landmark BBC television reports of major world events from the past half-century will be available free online to British computer users.

Footage of the fall of the Berlin Wall, protests in Tiananmen Square and the famous 1984 dispatch detailing famine in Ethiopia, which prompted the Live Aid charity concerts, are included in a trial project being tested on the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Web site.

Users will be able to view an initial 80 packages in their original state or download and edit the material, but only if they use computers within Great Britain.

The public service broadcaster has had to restrict access under the terms of its funding through a 126.50-pound ($219) annual license fee levied on British TV owners.

- David Stringer, AP




The BBC will check the numeric Internet addresses of users to make sure they are coming through a British Internet service provider. It's similar to a mechanism used by content providers such as Major League Baseball in the United States to limit access by territory.

Users outside Britain get a message explaining why they cannot access the footage and are asked about their willingness to pay for it in the future.

Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, said Wednesday that if the archive proves popular with Internet users over the next 18 months, it will be made a permanent addition to the BBC's Web site and expanded to include more reports.

"This trial is an important step in allowing us to share with our audiences the extraordinary news archive which the BBC has recorded over the years," Boaden said.

-David Stringer, AP writer

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