Bird Road resident acclaimed by UK photo society
by Sam Matthews
Oct 18, 2013 | 8539 views | 0 0 comments | 430 430 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tracy area resident John Meyer holds an inkjet print and an award from the Royal Photographic Society. Meyer, a retired Hewlett-Packard product designer, was part of the team that designed the company’s digital printers and imaging equipment.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Tracy area resident John Meyer holds an inkjet print and an award from the Royal Photographic Society. Meyer, a retired Hewlett-Packard product designer, was part of the team that designed the company’s digital printers and imaging equipment. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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John Meyer recently received an award or his contributions to photography for his work on Hewlett-Packard digital printers and imaging equipment.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
John Meyer recently received an award or his contributions to photography for his work on Hewlett-Packard digital printers and imaging equipment. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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John Meyer received an email in July with a strange-looking sender name.

“I almost deleted it, thinking it was probably spam, but then at the last moment I decided to open it,” he said.

The rural Tracy resident was glad he did. The email was from the Royal Photographic Society of the United Kingdom. It said Meyer was winner of the society’s Davies Medal, awarded annually “for a significant contribution in the digital field of imaging science.”

He was honored for his work during nearly three decades as a key Hewlett-Packard Co. researcher and developer of ink-jet printing and digital photography.

“I knew a former member of my team at HP had nominated me for the award,” Meyer said, “but I had no idea I would be selected — until that email arrived.”

The medal was presented in ceremonies held Sept. 17 in London, but Meyer was unable to attend. He received the silver medallion in the mail last week.

Meyer, a 71-year-old native of New Zealand, retired as director of the HP Digital Printing and Imaging Laboratory in Palo Alto in 2007 after 28 years with the pioneer high-tech firm.

During those years, Meyer combined his early experience in color printing in the United Kingdom with the study of mathematics in earning a degree in physics from University of Canterbury in New Zealand and later a doctorate in physics from University of Southern California.

“I had a vision 46 years ago in the U.K. of moving traditional film-based color separations for printing into electronic images that could manipulated mathematically,” he said. “I was fortunate as a member of the HP team to be able to play a role in achieving that goal.”

Along the way, Meyer was among the leaders involved in developing what was then novel inkjet printing technology. It took overcoming some foot-dragging by HP management to make the upgrade from original basic black-and-white output to high-quality color images, but the upgrade was achieved.

Establishing a mathematical means of communicating color information among a scanner, computer and printer made the system work — generating huge profits for the parent firm along the way.

Meyer said that the improvement in the quality of the digital color images “provided a trigger for photography to move from film to digital technology.”

“The digital photography revolution came about because a low-cost option for consumers to print out their pictures at home became available,” he noted. “It was helped by the fact that the color-communication problems that we had solved carried over into the camera domain.”

Although HP moved out of the digital point-and-shoot camera business, it has retained its involvement in a digital-camera-based fine-art reproduction system for art galleries.

Since retiring, Meyer has remained active as a member of a team of retirees seeking a short-term answer to climate change by increasing the density of clouds in certain areas of the earth, including the west coast of the U.S..

The Davies Medal will find a place in the family curio cabinet in the Bird Road home where Meyer and his wife, Sharie, have lived since 1989.

Meyer added: “The medal is a reminder of my great adventure.”

• Contact Sam Matthews at 830-4234 or shm@tracypress.com.

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