Snapshot: Preface to visualizing the future

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Appendix A: History of Computer Graphics (and a whole lot more)

NOTE: The following history of computer graphics was created by SIGGRAPH. It’s been reformatted (bulleted lists, capitalizations, etc.).

1200 - 1959

  • 1200 Chinese Abacus

  • 1617 Napier’s bones

  • 1450 Gutenberg press

  • 1687 Principia Mathematica - Isaac Newton

  • 1700s?

  • 1801 Jacquard loom

  • 1811 Luddites riot

  • 1826 Photography (Niepce)

  • 1830 Babbage Analytical Engine designed

  • 1842 FAX (Alexander Bain)

  • 1843 Morse’s telegraph installed between Philadelphia and Washington

  • 1864 Maxwell electromagnetic wave theory becomes basis for radio wave propagation

  • 1877 Edison invents phonograph

  • 1884 Nipkow (Germany) devises scanner for scanning and transmitting images

  • 1885 CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)

  • 1887 Edison patents motion picture camera

  • 1888 Edison and Dickson design Kinetoscope - (motion pictures from successive photos on a cylinder); Berliner invents gramophone; Oberlin Smith publishes basics of magnetic recording

  • 1890 Hollerith introduces an automated punch-card driven tabulation device for the Census Bureau

  • 1891 Dickson uses Edison’s kinetograph to record motion pictures

  • 1898 Poulsen invents the Telegraphone, the first magnetic recording device

  • 1905 Fleming electron tube; 1905 Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

  • 1906 de Forest develops Audion vacuum tube amplifier

  • 1923 Zworykin develops Iconoscope at Westinghouse

  • 1926 First television (J.L. Baird); 1st teleconference - between Washington and New York

  • 1927 Philo Farnsworth invents fully electronic TV (First all electronic TV is made by RCA in 1932); Motion picture film standardized at 24 fps

  • 1928 Hollerith introduces the 80-column “punch card”

  • 1929 BBC begins broadcasting

  • 1930 Philo Farnsworth receives patents for transmitting images by electronic means

  • 1931 1st stereo recordings

  • 1936 Magnetophone is 1st true magnetic tape recorder

  • 1938 Valensi proposes color TV

  • 1939 Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard design the Audio Oscillator

  • 1941 First U.S. regular TV broadcast; 1st TV commercial (for Bulova watches)

  • 1945 Whirlwind computer project starts at MIT

  • 1946 ENIAC computer built at University of Pennsylvania

  • 1948 cable TV is installed

  • 1947 Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain of Bell Labs invent transistors (“transfer resistance”)

  • 1949 John Whitney enters first International Experimental Film Competition in Belgium; Williams tube (CRT storage tube); Whirlwind computer built; core memory developed by Wang of Harvard

  • 1950 Cybernetics and Society - Norbert Weiner (MIT); Ben Laposky uses oscilloscope to display waveforms which were photographed as artwork

  • 1951 Graphics display on vectorscope on Whirlwind computer in first public demonstration

  • 1952 Mr. Potato Head invented; later starred in “Toy Story;” Air Force Project Blue Book organized to categorize UFO sightings

  • 1953 NTSC broadcast code

  • 1954 FCC authorizes color TV broadcast; FORTRAN - John Backus

  • 1955 Disneyland opens; SAGE system at Lincoln Lab uses first light pen (Bert Sutherland)

  • 1956 Lawrence Livermore National Labs connects graphics display to IBM 704; use film recorder for color images; Ray Dolby, Charles Ginsberg and Charles Anderson of Ampex develop the first videotape recorder; Alex Poniatoff (Ampex) introduces the VR1000 videotape recorder (2”tape) - the first practical broadcast quality VTR

  • 1957 1st image-processed photo at National Bureau of Standards; Digital Equipment Corporation founded

  • 1958 Numerical controlled digital drafting machines, APT II (Automated Programming Tools) - MIT; CalComp 565 drum plotter; Saul Bass creates titles for Hitchcock’s movie, Vertigo; Integrated circuit (IC, or Chip) invented by Jack St. Clair Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild Electronics; John Whitney Sr. uses analog computer to make art

  • 1959 First film recorder - General Dynamics Stromberg Carlson 4020 (uses Charactron tube); TX-2 computer at MIT uses graphics console; GM begins DAC program


  • 1960 William Fetter of Boeing coins the term “computer graphics” for his human factors cockpit drawings; John Whitney Sr. founds Motion Graphics, Inc.; LISP developed by John McCarthy; DEC PDP-1 introduced

  • 1961 Spacewars, 1st video game, developed by Steve Russell at MIT for the PDP-1; Catalogue (John Whitney)

  • 1962 Information International Inc. (Triple I) founded; Itek begins Electronic Drafting Machine project; Mr. Computer Image ABC produced on Scanimate by Lee Harrison


  • 1st computer art competition, sponsored by Computers and Automation; Sketchpad developed beginning in 1961 by Ivan Sutherland at MIT is unveiled; Mouse invented by Doug Englebart of SRI

  • Coons’ patches

  • 1st (?) computer generated film by Edward Zajac (Bell Labs)

  • BEFLIX developed at Bell Labs by Ken Knowlton

  • Charles Csuri makes his first computer generated artwork

  • DAC-1, first commercial CAD system, developed in 1959 by IBM for General Motors is shown at JCC

  • Lockheed Georgia starts graphics activity (Chase Chasen)

  • Michael Noll (Bell Labs) starts his Gaussian Quadratic series of artwork

  • Roberts hidden line algorithm (MIT)

  • The Society for Information Display established

  • Fetter of Boeing creates the “First Man” digital human for cockpit studies


  • Project MAC (MIT)

  • IBM 2250 console ($125,000) introduced with IBM 360 computer

  • Poem Field by Stan Vanderbeek and Ken Knowlton

  • Itek Digigraphic Program (later Control Data graphics system)

  • The BASIC programming language developed by Kurtz and Kemeny

  • Ruth Weiss introduces drawing software that performs hidden line elimination

  • RAND tablet input device (commercially known as Grafacon)

  • Compact cassette tape (Phillips)

  • New York World’s Fair

  • Electronic character generator


  • 1st computer art exhibition, at Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart

  • 1st U.S. computer art exhibition, at Howard Wise Gallery in New York

  • Dolby Laboratories founded by Ray Dolby, inventor of the first videotape recorder (1956)

  • Adage founded

  • Roberts introduces homogeneous coordinates

  • Utah computer science department founded

  • Bresenham Algorithm for plotting lines

  • Tektronix Direct View Storage Tube (DVST)

  • CADAM developed at Lockheed; CADD developed at McDonnell Douglas

  • Project DEMAND consortium (IBM, Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell, TRW, Rolls Royce)

  • BBN Teleputer uses Tektronix CRT


  • Odyssey, home video game developed by Ralph Baer of Sanders Assoc., is 1st consumer CG product

  • Group 1 FAX machines (using CCITT compression)

  • Lincoln Wand developed

  • Plasma Panel introduced (first developed at Illinois in 1964 as part of the PLATO project)

  • Studies in Perception I by Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon (Bell Labs)

  • MAGI founded by Phil Mittleman

  • Joint Defense Department / Industry symposium on CAD/NC held in Oklahoma City

  • IBM awards Artist-in-Residence to John Whitney, Sr.

  • Loutrel hidden line algorithm


  • Appel hidden line algorithm

  • Steven Coons publishes his surface patch “little red book”

  • Sine Curve Man and Hummingbird created by Chuck Csuri

  • Adage real time 3D line drawing system

  • Lee Harrison’s ANIMAC graphic device

  • GE introduces first full color real time interactive flight simulator for NASA - Rod Rougelet

  • Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) started in New York by artists Rauschenberg and Kluver

  • MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies founded by Gyorgy Kepes

  • Instant replay and Slo-Mo introduced using Ampex HS-100 disc recorder

  • Cornell’s program started in Architecture by Don Greenberg

  • 1/2 inch open reel video tape recorder


  • DEC 338 intelligent graphics terminal

  • Tektronix 4010

  • Intel founded

  • University of Utah asks Dave Evans to form a CG department in computer science

  • Warnock algorithm

  • Watkins algorithm

  • Edsger Dijkstra writes article Go To Statement Considered Harmful which signals beginning of structured programming

  • Cybernetic Serendipity: The Computer and the Arts exhibition at London Institute of Contemporary Arts

  • Csuri’s Hummingbird purchased by Museum of Modern Art for permanent collection

  • Permutations - John Whitney, Sr.

  • Sutherland Head Mounted Display (Sword of Damocles), developed in 1966, shown (AFIPS Conference)

  • Evans & Sutherland Calma, Computek, Houston Instrument, Imlac founded

  • ARDS terminal, Computek 400 terminal

  • LDS-1 ($250,000) from E&S introduces line clipping


  • Computer Image Corporation founded

  • UNIX developed by Thompson and Ritchie at Bell Labs (in PDP-7 assembly code)

  • SCANIMATE commercialized - Lee Harrison

  • Genesys animation system - Ron Baecker

  • GRAIL (Graphics Input Language) developed at Rand

  • Computer Space arcade game built by Nolan Bushnell

  • Xerox PARC founded

  • Lee Harrison’s CAESAR animation system

  • Bell Labs builds first framebuffer (3 bits)

  • Sony U-Matic 3/4” video cassette

  • Intel introduces the 1 KB RAM chip

  • 1st use of CGI for commercials - MAGI for IBM

  • Graphical User Interface (GUI) developed by Xerox (Alan Kay)

  • SIGGRAPH formed (began as special interest committee in 1967 by Sam Matsa and Andy vanDam)

  • ComputerVision, Applicon, Vector General founded

  • ARPANET is born



  • Sonic Pen 3-D input device

  • ISSCO (Integrated Software Systems Corporation ) founded (marketed DISSPLA software) by Peter Preuss

  • Watkins algorithm for visible surfaces

  • Pascal programming language developed by Wirth

  • Imlac PDS-1 programmable graphics computer marketed

  • John Staudhammer starts NCSU Graphics Lab at NC State

  • Pierre Bezier from Renault develops Bezier freeform curve representation


  • Gouraud shading

  • Ramtek founded

  • GINO (graphics input output specification) - Cambridge University

  • Intel 4004 4-bit processor

  • Interactive Graphics for Computer-Aided Design (Prince) published

  • MCS (Manufacturing and Consulting Services) founded by Patrick Hanratty, considered the “father” of mechanical CAD/CAM - introduces ADAM CAD software, which is the heart of many modern software systems

  • Robert Abel and Associates founded

  • Floppy disk (8”) - IBM


  • MAGI Synthevision started (Bo Gehring)

  • CGRG founded at Ohio State

  • NASA IPAD (Integrated Program for Aerospace Vehicle Design) initiative started

  • Graphics Standards Planning Committee organized by ACM-SIGGRAPH

  • The @ symbol selected for email addresses by BBN

  • C language developed by Ritchie

  • Emmy awarded to Lee Harrison for SCANIMATE

  • Alto computer introduced by Xerox PARC (Alan Kay)

  • Intel 8008 8-bit processor

  • Megatek, Summagraphics, Computervision, Applicon founded

  • Utah hand (Catmull) and face (Parke) animations produced

  • Computer Graphics and Image Processing journal begins publication

  • 8-bit frame buffer developed by Dick Shoup at Xerox PARC

  • Sandin Image Processor - Dan Sandin, Univ. Illinois-Chicago Circle

  • Atari formed (Nolan Bushnell)

  • Newell, Newell and Sancha visible surface algorithm

  • video game Pong developed for Atari

  • Graphics Symbiosis System (GRASS) developed at Ohio State by Tom DeFanti


  • E&S begins marketing first commercial frame buffer

  • Ethernet - Bob Metcalf (Harvard)

  • Quantel founded

  • Westworld - uses 2D graphics

  • Circle Graphics Habitat founded at Univ. Illinois Chicago (Tom DeFanti & Dan Sandin)

  • Moore’s Law (the number of transistors on a microchip will double every year and a half) by Intel’s chairman, Mr. Gordon Moore

  • Nolan Bushnell’s video game Computer Space appears in movie Soylent Green

  • first SIGGRAPH conference (Boulder)

  • 3/4 inch portapack replaces 16mm film for news gathering

  • Richard Shoup develops PARC raster display

  • Rich Riesenfeld (Syracuse) introduces b-splines for geometric design

  • Principles of Interactive Computer Graphics (Newman and Sproull) first comprehensive graphics textbook is published


  • Motion Pictures Product Group formed at III by John Whitney, Jr. and Gary Demos

  • Alex Schure opens CGL at NYIT, with Ed Catmull as Director

  • Barnhill and Riesenfeld introduce the name “Computer-Aided Geometric Design” (CAGD)

  • SuperPaint developed by Dick Shoup and Alvy Ray Smith

  • TCP protocol (Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn)

  • DEC VT52 incorporated the first addressable cursor in a graphics display terminal

  • Intel (Zilog) 8080

  • z-buffer developed by Ed Catmull (University of Utah)

  • Futureworld (sequel to Westworld) uses 3D CGI (III)

  • Hunger produced by Peter Foldes at National Research Council of Canada; wins Cannes Film Festival Prix de Jury award for animation


  • Phong shading - Bui-Toung Phong (University of Utah)

  • Sony Betamax recorder

  • USAF ICAM (Integrated Computer Aided Manufacturing) initiative started

  • Cray 1 introduced

  • Altair 8800 computer

  • Fractals - Benoit Mandelbrot (IBM)

  • Winged edge polyhedra representation (Bruce Baumgart)

  • Catmull curved surface rendering algorithm

  • Bill Gates starts Microsoft

  • Quantel (QUANtized TELevision) introduces the DFS3000 Digital Framestore

  • Martin Newell (Utah) develops CGI teapot (physical teapot now in the Computer Museum in Boston)

  • JPL Graphics Lab developed (Bob Holzman)

  • Arabesque completed (John Whitney)

  • Anima animation system developed at CGRG at Ohio State (Csuri)


  • MITs Visible Language Workshop founded by Muriel Cooper

  • Ed Catmull develops “tweening” software (NYIT)

  • Jim Clark’s Hierarchical model for visible surface detection

  • N. Burtnyk , M. Wein, Interactive skeleton techniques for enhancing motion dynamics in key frame animation, CACM, V19, #10, Oct 1976, 564-569

  • Dolby sound

  • Jim Blinn develops reflectance and environment mapping (University of Utah)

  • Nelson Max’s sphere inversion film

  • Ukrainian Pysanka Egg erected in Vegraville, Canada by Ron Resch (University of Utah) to commemorate the RCMP

  • Sony Beta home video

  • Floppy disk (5 1/4”)

  • Apple 1 (Wozniak)

  • IFIP (The Internation Federation of Information Processing) conference at Seillac in France on “The Methodology of Computer Graphics” begins standardization process

  • Computer Graphics Newsletter started by Joel Orr; becomes Computer Graphics World in 1978

  • Peter Fonda’s head digitized and rendered by III for Futureworld

  • Ampex VPR-1 Type C 1” video recorder

  • Wang word processing

  • “Artist and Computer”, by Ruth Leavitt

  • Mathematical Elements for Computer Graphics (David Rogers) published

  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak start Apple computer.


  • Apple Computer incorporated

  • VHS (Video Home System) format - Matsushita

  • JVC VHS home video

  • Apple II released

  • TRS-80 introduced

  • Frank Crow introduces antialiasing

  • Jim Blinn introduces a new illumination model that considers surface “facets”

  • Computer Graphics World begins publication (started by Joel and N’omi Orr as Computer Graphics Newsletter)

  • Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences introduces Visual Effects category for Oscars

  • Nelson Max joins LLL; Jim Blinn joins JPL

  • R/Greenberg founded (Richard and Robert Greenberg)

  • SIGGRAPH CORE Graphics standard

  • Ampex ESSTM (Electronic Still Store) system introduced for network sports slo-mo;adapted for use as animation sequetial storage device

  • GKS (Graphical Kernal System) graphics standard introduced

  • Fuchs multiprocessor visible surface algorithm

  • Larry Cuba produces Death Star simulation for Star Wars using Grass at UICC developed by Tom DeFanti at Ohio State


  • Tom DeFanti’s GRASS system rewritten for Bally home computer (Zgrass)

  • E&S goes public

  • AT&T and Canadian Telidon introduce videotex graphics standard (NAPLPS)

  • Digital Effects founded (Judson Rosebush, Jeff Kleiser, et al)

  • Lance Williams curved shadows paper

  • Ikonas frame buffer - England/Whitton

  • Leroy Neiman uses Ampex AVA-1TM video art system to draw (on air) football players in Super Bowl XII

  • 1st CGI film title - Superman (R. Greenberg)

  • Computer Graphics World begins publication

  • James Blinn produces the first of a series of animations titled The Mechanical Universe

  • DEC VAX 11/780 introduced

  • Video laser disc

  • Bump mapping introduced (Blinn)


  • National Computer Graphics Association (NCGA) organized by Peter Preuss of ISSCO and Joel Orr

  • IGES graphics file format specified

  • IBM 3279 color terminal

  • E&S PS-300

  • Motorola 68000 32-bit processor

  • Atari 8-bit computers introduced

  • Disney produces The Black Hole using CGI for the opening

  • Sunstone - Ed Emshwiller (NYIT)

  • George Lucas hires Ed Catmull, Ralph Guggenheim and Alvy Ray Smith to form Lucasfilm

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