Digital images are assembled from pixels, with each pixel's color described by a number. The term "color depth" stands for the amount of binary digits used to store each digital pixel's color: as more digits are used on the digital canvas to store the indiviual pixel-colors, the "more colorful" the image can be. (By using 24bit canvas we can deal with "true color images": in this case all the pixels have one of the 16.7 million colors, which is far beyond the number of colors distinguishable to the human eye.) By using bigger color depth, and resolution the digital spectacle can be as perfect a one as we try to make it - we can render all the possible sights perceptible by the human eye. For this reason the digital laboratory seems to be an ideal place to study visual information.

But if digital images are stored in form of number-chains (which obviously cannot be endless), there is a finite number of images renderable on each digital canvas. For example, a "gray scale monitor", with each pixel having one of the 256 possible gray levels and with a resolution of 640x480 pixels, can display different images up to 256 on the 307200th power. An overwhelming number of variations, but nevertheless, finite.

Grayscale image with 10, 100 and 256 colors/pixel.
Color depth is not necessarily corresponds to the amount of visual information...

Most of the variations will picture meaningless noise, but among them there must be pictured all the possible spectacles which have ever been seen, from the Mona Lisa to the cover page of tomorrow's newspapers, and all the possible variations of all the existing scenes, pictured from all the possible viewpoints, illuminated by all the possible hues - rendered on that small resolution, in grayscale, of course. The number of the possible variations can be increased by using a better monitor, but it remains finite, meaning that the better display will produce new visions, but in many cases it will just picture a better quality reproduction of the same sight. In my view this insufficiency makes the computer the adequate experiment-chamber to form the most exciting question about images; namely what is the difference between meaningless noise and meaningful image?

The project "Achilleus and the turtle" was started in 1996 by Márton Fernezelyi, Miklós Peternák and Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák. The basic idea behind the studies was to use the idea of treating the digital image as one large number (by considering the numbers representing each pixel's color as digits of the large number).

The first presentation of the project was the lecture event organized and moderated by Gusztáv Hámos in the Goethe Institut Budapest 1996, in the frame of the Vilém Flusser Symposion. We also presented the first attempts to study "the code of the image" in form of a small exhibition in the gallery of the Goethe Institute.

From 1997 I've started to experiment with changing and rendering variations of color palettes of existing images. There are a couple of color bubblejet print-series I've made using this approach, which are frequently exhibited. These are my personal additions to the original project, which is still open for continuation.

I think all the authors agree on that the areas outlined in this document - which is a compilation of the fictions we started to work out together - have that challenging power of beautifoul foolness, that will force us one time to work on it together again.

Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák