The playmate that IT should resolve to forget

STORY – ‘Lenna’, aka Lena Forsén, posed nude for ‘Playboy’ in 1972. Her photo has become a reference used in hundreds of image processing research studies…and a cumbersome icon for a world IT still too masculine, which struggles to attract young women.

Three-quarters back, she turns her face towards the camera, bathed in golden light. The shoulders are bare, the head covered with a straw hat from which streams a dark feather. Many have seen this image in a photo magazine, and it has haunted computer research and teaching for half a century. Nothing indicates it, but under the shoulders unfolds the naked body of the young woman dressed in black stockings, heeled boots and a pink boa. Miss November 1972central poster of Playboy, was to titillate the readers; it has become an icon of image processing… and the cumbersome symbol of an overly testosterone computing community.

It all started in the summer of 1973. Engineers from the Signal and Image Processing Institute (Sipi) at the University of South Carolina (USC) worked to translate images into computer bits. They are looking for a photo to present at the conference, but have “enough of their usual stock of test images, images…

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