Feb 14, 2023

How One of the Most Important Algorithms in Math Made Color TV Possible

Posted by in categories: information science, mathematics

A key algorithm that quietly empowers and simplifies our electronics is the Fourier transform, which turns the graph of a signal varying in time into a graph that describes it in terms of its frequencies.

Packaging signals that represent sounds or images in terms of their frequencies allows us to analyze and adjust sound and image files, Richard Stern, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, tells Popular Mechanics. This mathematical operation also makes it possible for us to store data efficiently.

The invention of color TV is a great example of this, Stern explains. In the 1950s, television was just black and white. Engineers at RCA developed color television, and used Fourier transforms to simplify the data transmission so that the industry could introduce color without tripling the demands on the channels by adding data for red, green, and blue light. Viewers with black-and-white TVs could continue to see the same images as they saw before, while viewers with color TVs could now see the images in color.

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