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Virgil (70 BC - 19 BC)


Pixels are generally thought of as the smallest complete sample of an image. The definition is highly context sensitive. For example, we can speak of pixels in a visible image (e.g. a printed page) or pixels carried by one or more electronic signal(s), or represented by one or more digital value(s), or pixels on a display device, or pixels in a digital camera (photosensor elements). This list is not exhaustive and depending on context there are several synonyms which are accurate in particular contexts, e.g. pel, sample, bytes, bits, dots, spots, superset, triad, stripe set, window, etc. We can also speak of pixels in the abstract, in particular when using pixels as a measure of resolution, e.g. 2400 pixels per inch or 640 pixels per line. Dots is often used to mean pixels, especially by computer sales and marketing people, and gives rise to the abbreviation DPI or dots per inch.

The more pixels used to represent an image, the closer the result can resemble the original. The number of pixels in an image is sometimes called the resolution, though resolution has a more specific definition. Pixels can be expressed as a single number, as in a three-megapixel digital camera, which has a nominal three million pixels, or as a pair of numbers, as in a 640 by 480 display, which has 640 pixels from side to side and 480 from top to bottom (as in a VGA display), and therefore has a total number of 640, 480 = 307,200 pixels.

The color samples that form a digitized image (such as a JPG file used on a web page) are also called pixels. Depending on how a computer displays an image, these may not be in one-to-one correspondence with screen pixels. In areas where the distinction is important, the dots in the image file may be called texels.

In computer programming, an image composed of pixels is known as a bitmapped image or a raster image. The word raster originates from analogue television technology. Bitmapped images are used to encode digital video and to produce computer-generated art. 

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