The word pixel was first published in 1965 by Frederic C. Billingsley of JPL, to describe the picture elements of video images from space probes to the moon and Mars; but he did not coin the term himself, and the person he got it from (Keith E. McFarland at the Link Division of General Precision in Palo Alto) does not know where he got it, but says it was "in use at the time" (circa 1963).
The word is a combination of picture and element, via pix. Pix was first coined in 1932 in a Variety Magazine headline, as an abbreviation for the word pictures, in reference to movies; by 1938 pix was being used in reference to still pictures by photojournalists.
The concept of a picture element dates to the earliest days of television, for example as Bildpunkt (the German word for pixel, literally picture point) in the 1888 German patent of Paul Nipkow. According to various etymologies, the earliest publication of the term picture element itself was in Wireless World magazine in 1927, though it had been used earlier in various U.S. patents filed as early as 1911.
Some authors explain pixel as picture cell, as early as 1972 .
The term pixel art was first published by Adele Goldberg and Robert Flegal of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1982. The concept, however goes back about 10 years before that, for example in Richard Shoup's SuperPaint system in 1972, also at Xerox PARC.
Some traditional art forms, such as cross-stitch, mosaic and beadwork, bear some similarity to pixel art by constructing pictures out of small colored units analogous to the pixels of modern digital computing.
Pixel art is distinguished from other forms of digital art by an insistence upon manual, pixel-level editing of an image (without the application of image filters, automatic anti-aliasing or special rendering modes), often at close magnification. In this form, it is commonly said that "each pixel was placed carefully" to achieve a desired result.