Dean Owen

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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A Chance Encounter with Royalty



“Who invented that?”

“Who invented what?”

“That! The picture on this article!”

“Ohh, the photo!  Well that was the French guy Nicéphore Niépce wasn’t it?”

“Well yes, he may have invented the photograph way back when, but that’s not what I am asking!”


Chance Encounter


It was that time of year when I had to do a visa run. My appointment was set for 11:00am so I left early. The traffic through the tunnel that crosses the Huangpu River was unpredictable. It wasn’t so bad today and I made my way swiftly to the old part of Shanghai near the French Concession. Thankful to find a car park nearby, I headed to the Entry/Exit Service Center documents in hand.

With 45 minutes to spare, I searched for a coffee shop nearby. Puxi has a ton of charming coffee shops, and a quick few minutes walk had me standing outside a very quaint café that looked like something out of a Frank Lloyd Wright project.

I ordered a double espresso and settled into a 1960’s style chair that could easily have featured in The Jetson’s. As I went through my documents for the umpteenth time, I notice an elderly Western gentleman sipping coffee quietly by the window. He glanced up and smiled.

It wasn’t long before he made his way over and planted himself right across from me.


“You may not believe me but I invented the square pixel”  he said.


Huh? I was confused. What was he babbling on about? Did someone actually invent the square pixel? Are we talking pixels on a digital image? There is no way it could be him, he is too ….(yes, I admit, I was thinking he was too old).

He was a delightful gentleman nevertheless and it was a pleasure listening to him recount some of his achievements.


“The only thing I regret” he continued, “was making it square.”


We chatted for a couple of minutes and I processed very little, more concerned with the time and my appointment. Clearly he saw my mind was occupied, and he stood up, wished me well, and walked out of the café.

It was a few days later that I recalled my brief but delightful encounter.

After a quick Google search for “Inventor Square Pixel”, there were a ton of articles. Clicking on the first “Square Pixel Inventor Tries to Smooth Things Out” I read about how in 1957, a computer expert working at the National Bureau of Standards scanned the world’s first digital image of his baby son. To this day the inventor felt apologetic that he could not come up with a better solution to remove the jagged edges on digital images. The article mentioned his name as Russell Kirsch, and sure enough an image search of the man produced pictures of that very gentleman I had met a week earlier.

Mr Russell A. Kirsch is 87 years young and lives in Portland, Oregon. If by chance he reads this article, I do hope he recalls our chance encounter and please do accept my apologies for perhaps seeming aloof.

This was a couple of years ago now, but I treasure the memory of the day I met Mr. Square Pixel.


Addendum – As I was researching into Russell Kirsch this morning, I came across a posting by a Joel Runyon who recalled a strikingly similar encounter with Mr. Square Pixel in a coffee shop in Portland. Back in 2012 his wonderful post, “An Unexpected Ass Kicking” went viral.

I suspect there may be others who were fortunate enough to have encountered Mr. Square Pixel over a cappuccino, and who knows, maybe next time it will be you.


Dean Owen is Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment.


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Comments

Dean Owen

5 years ago #2

Yes perhaps Ken Boddie. I would have liked to have spent more time with Mr. Square Pixel for sure. You need to capture those opportunities I guess, but yes, I was focused on my appointment and perhaps slightly skeptical that this gentleman was all there. I mean who would have thought to bump into someone like that in China. Oh well. I did find him on Facebook today and sent him a Friend Request :)

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #1

Under the pressure of a pending business meeting, how many of us would actually recognise the possibilities of such a unique 'distraction' except in retrospect. So many questions, Dean. Unasked. Unanswered. ????????????

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