These are the Oldest Surviving Photographs in the World
These are the Oldest Surviving Photographs in the World

These are the Oldest Surviving Photographs in the World

Alli - September 15, 2021

These are the Oldest Surviving Photographs in the World
Taken on a 1975 Soviet mission to Venus. Courtesy of NSSDC.

Oldest photo of another planet’s surface

Pictured above is the oldest known photo of another planet’s surface. While it is blurry and difficult to see, it’s amazing that technology in the 1970s allowed humans to capture a clear image of another planet’s surface. Venera 9, was a Soviet uncrewed space mission to Venus. It consisted of an orbiter and a lander. It was launched on June 8, 1975, at 02:38:00 UTC and had a mass of 4,936 kilograms (10,882 lb). The orbiter was the first spacecraft to orbit Venus, while the lander was the first to return images from the surface of another planet.

The lander was encased in a spherical shell before landing to help protect it from the heat of entry as it slowed from 10.7 km/s to 150 m/s. This sphere was then separated with explosive bolts and a three-domed parachute was deployed which slowed the lander further to 50 m/s at an altitude of 63 km above the planet. It was the first spacecraft to return an image from the surface of another planet. Many of the instruments began working immediately after touchdown and the cameras were operational 2 minutes later. These instruments revealed a smooth surface with numerous stones. The lander measured a light level of 14,000 lux, similar to that of Earth in full daylight but no direct sunshine. They not only captured Venus for the first time, they’ll forever be known as supplying the world with the oldest image of another planet’s surface.

These are the Oldest Surviving Photographs in the World
Photo of three month old son. Russell A. Kirsch. Public Domain.

First digital image

We couldn’t talk about the history of the oldest known photographs and not highlight our more modern photographical feats. While not the same as some of the other “oldest” photos, this marked the dawning of a new photography age: digital images. Russell A. Kirsch is credited as the man who produced the first digital image in 1957. While working at the National Bureau of Standards, Kirsch and his team developed a digital image scanner. The first image scanned was of a photo of Kirsch’s three month old son, captured at one bit per pixel. It’s considered to be one of the 100 photographs that changed the world.

Kirsch and his colleagues at NBS, who had developed the nation’s first programmable computer, the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC), created a rotating drum scanner and programming that allowed images to be fed into it. The first image scanned was a head-and-shoulders shot of Kirsch’s three-month-old son Walden. This was the first step into digitizing the art of photography.

These are the Oldest Surviving Photographs in the World
This is the first image file that was tested for uploading the internet. Silvio De Gennaro.

First photo to be published to the Internet

Once again, this one couldn’t be left off the list just because it isn’t the “oldest” photo in the world. The internet has revolutionized how we do everything. From how we communicate to how we share ideas, work, and memories, the internet is ever-growing. But at its infancy, it was not the same as it is now. There were new baby steps the internet needed to take. And one of them was testing out the capability of uploading photos.

On July 18, 1992, the first picture was uploaded on the web. The photo that captured four slickly dressed women was posted by Tim Burners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. The photo is of an all woman comedy group. The photograph was taken by Silvio de Gennaro as a promotional image for the women’s show. They had no idea that their small time act would make it into the history books as one of the most important mile stones for sharing media.


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