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« Dr. Hell is the Edison of the graphic arts industry. » Laudation for the Gutenberg Prize 1977

Rudolf Hell: A pioneer of image processing technology

Rudolf Hell & LaserSoft Imaging

Rudolf Hell was a visionary inventor who developed groundbreaking technologies for image processing, including scanners and image processing systems. His work laid the foundation for companies such as LaserSoft Imaging, which are active in the field of image processing. With his 131 registered patents, Rudolf Hell is one of the greatest German inventors. He was included i in the Inventors Gallery of the German Patent Office and was awarded the Great Cross with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

About Rudolf Hell

Rudolf Hell (* December 19, 1901, Eggmühl, † March 11, 2002, Kiel) was a German inventor and entrepreneur known for his revolutionary contributions to image processing technology. Born in Eggmühl, Germany, Hell showed an exceptional talent and interest in electronics and technology at an early age. After studying electrical engineering at the Technical University of Munich, Hell began his career as an engineer and worked on various research and development projects. After the Second World War, Hell founded a company for communications equipment and electronic reproduction technology in Kiel. Rudolf Hell did not retire from business life until 1989, and he died in Kiel at the great age of 100 years.

The Development of Hell Scanners

In the early years of his career, Rudolf Hell developed various devices for the telecommunications and printing industries. However, his most significant achievement was the development of scanners, which made it possible for the first time to capture and process images and text electronically. With the introduction of his Chromagraph scanners and Chromacom image processing systems in the 1960s and 1970s, Hell set new standards in prepress technology. These scanners were capable of producing high-precision reproductions of images and text and played a crucial role in automating printing processes. These drum scanners can be considered the predecessors of today’s desktop scanners for personal use.

Hell’s Influence on LaserSoft Imaging

The innovative power of Rudolf Hell inspired a new generation of technology companies, including LaserSoft Imaging. The company, founded in 1986 by Karl-Heinz Zahorsky, also in Kiel, continued the tradition of image processing technology established by Hell. In 1989, LaserSoft Imaging became a consultant to Hell AG for new desktop color processing technologies. One year later, LaserSoft Imaging took over the distribution of Riplink, the connection of the Chromacom image processing system to the Mac. In particular, the development of scanner and image processing software at LaserSoft Imaging was strongly influenced by the principles and technologies introduced by Rudolf Hell. The ability to create and process high-quality digital reproductions of analog images continues to be the foundation of LaserSoft Imaging’s products. Still at the great age of 99, Rudolf Hell visited the 2001 DRUPA exhibition in Düsseldorf and met LaserSoft Imaging CEO Karl-Heinz Zahorsky.

LaserSoft Imaging: Continuing Hell’s Legacy

Today, LaserSoft Imaging is a leading global provider of scanner and image processing software. The company aims to continue Rudolf Hell’s vision by developing innovative solutions for digital image processing. Its SilverFast software is the heart of LaserSoft Imaging’s offering. Patents have been granted for many technological innovations used in SilverFast. Through continuous research and development, LaserSoft Imaging remains at the forefront of the industry and helps to continually expand the possibilities of digital image processing.


Rudolf Hell was a visionary inventor whose contribution to image processing technology can still be felt today. His development of scanners and image processing systems laid the foundation for companies like LaserSoft Imaging, which are carrying on his legacy and shaping the future of digital imaging. Thanks to Hell’s ingenious work, we can now create and proicess high-quality digital reproductions of analog images, which has forever changed the way we interact with visual media.

Hell Association Kiel, Germany

“Verein der Freunde und Förderer
Technische Sammlung Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell in Kiel e.V.”

The Hell Association, founded in 2005, has set itself the goal of honoring the life’s work of Rudolf Hell and making it accessible to the public. Although younger people in particular live with the blessings of modern media technology and use use them virtuously, they do not know who they have to thank for laying the foundations of the digital age. The statutory aim of the association is to build up a technical collection and to promote and present a permanent public exhibition.

LaserSoft Imaging is a long-standing member and sponsor of the Hell Association.

Hell’s greatest Inventions

Automatic Radio Direction Finder

Basis for more modern navigation instruments in aviation

Rudolf Hell was involved in the development of a radio direction finder. In 1927, he wrote his doctoral thesis on an automatic radio direction finder for aviation. This device was part of his early work in the field of electrical engineering and wireless communication. The automatic direction finder (ADF) was used in aviation to determine the direction of a radio transmitter. Pilots could use it to locate the position of other aircraft or ground stations by determining the direction of the radio signal. This technology was particularly important for navigation and flight safety, particularly in poor visibility conditions or when navigating over long distances.


Pioneering long-distance Transmission Technology

Rudolf Hell’s invention of the Hellschreiber in 1929 marked a significant advance in the long-distance transmission of messages. This impressive device was capable of transmitting almost any character, making it an indispensable tool for transmitting press radio news until the 1980s. Its robust construction and innovative grid system enabled reliable transmissions even under the most difficult conditions. The Hellschreiber was not only a technological milestone, but also a symbol of the advances in wireless communications of its time.


Revolution in Printing Technology

Rudolf Hell’s development of the Klischograph in 1953 revolutionized the printing industry. This machine for producing printing formes for the relief printing process enabled technical automation that was previously unthinkable. From the hand-made production of stereotypes, it moved on to a precise and efficient mechanical reproduction technology. The Klischograph paved the way for technological modernization in the graphic arts industry and made a significant contribution to speeding up production processes and improving the quality of printed products.


Milestone in Scanner Technology

Rudolf Hell’s introduction of the Chromagraph in 1965 marked a significant milestone in the history of scanner technology. As one of the first professional drum scanners of its time, the Chromagraph enabled high-precision scanning of color-corrected halftone color separations. With its ability to enlarge, to reduce and to electronically screen, the Chromagraph set new standards in image reproduction and was crucial for increasing efficiency in prepress. Its groundbreaking technology had a lasting impact on the development of scanners and digital image processing systems and helped to lead the printing industry into the digital age.


Advanced electronic Image Processing

The development of the Chromacom system by Rudolf Hell and his team in 1979 marks another milestone in electronic image processing. The Chromacom system enabled highly accurate and efficient digital image processing for various applications including prepress, graphic design and photography. With its advanced technology for color correction, image optimization and screening, the Chromacom set new standards for the quality and accuracy of digital image processing systems. Chromacom’s versatility and ease of use have made it an essential tool for professional graphic desigbners, printers and photography studios around the world.

Image credits: title image: Wikipedia, author Monster, CC-BY-SA Unported 3.0. Portrait Rudolf Hell, author unknown. Chromagraph DC 300B, Hell-Verein Kiel. Portrait Karl-Heinz Zahorsky / Logo LaserSoft Imaging / SilverFast products, LaserSoft Imaging. Logo Hell-Verein / Hellschreiber / Varioklischograph / Chromagraph, Hell-Verein Kiel. Combiskop, Hell brochure “Das Chromacom System 1980”.