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Visual Aesthetics in Early Computing
April 9, 2010 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Visual Aesthetics in Early Computing (1950-80) - a little look back at plotters and light pens and flow charts, which I found a bit nostalgic. You can watch Lapis, Permutations and Arabesque on YouTube.
posted by Wolfdog (22 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Beautiful stuff. Great find, Wolfdog.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:54 AM on April 9, 2010


Can anyone identify the music used in Catalog?
posted by Wolfdog at 5:55 AM on April 9, 2010


See also, the graphics of Herbert Brün, made at the U of I at Urbana / Champaign in the 1960s and 70s. The graphics were produced by Fortran programs on punchcards controlling a plotter pen.
posted by idiopath at 5:55 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


And a more textbook history of computer graphics and animation.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:59 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Main link seems to be borked for me - anyone else getting "Can't find the server"?

I used to adore watching X-Y plotters do their thing - especially lettering. Still do, given half a chance.
posted by kcds at 6:42 AM on April 9, 2010


I am teaching an art history class on this kind of stuff right now. Would linking to the massive link dump of a syllabus I've put together violate the no self-link policy?
posted by avianism at 6:45 AM on April 9, 2010


avianism: "Would linking to the massive link dump of a syllabus I've put together violate the no self-link policy?"

Not in a comment.

And I really want to see that, please.
posted by idiopath at 6:54 AM on April 9, 2010


I vote "go for it", avianism.
Not that my vote means anything, mind you.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:55 AM on April 9, 2010


Wow, thanks for that. I recognized almost everything from that first link, most of the illustrations are in a book "Cybernetics and Art" which is a circa 1975 anthology of computer art articles from Leonardo Magazine. Back in the 70s, Leonardo was very influential as it was about the only place where computer works as fine art were taken seriously. Well, at least it was influential to me (self-link).
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:56 AM on April 9, 2010


Watching a plotter draw something on paper was probably my introduction to computers. It was the late 70s or early 80s, we were at Polaroid's annual VIP day for families of employees. One of my dad's co-workers showed us a CAD system and then printed out the design on a plotter. I remember being fascinated by how quickly and accurately it drew the lines on the page and then switched pens to another colors. The switching of the pens was the best part. How did it know to switch? It must be smart!

Until then, a computer was just some mysterious thing that Batman had in his cave. I had no idea real people could use them for real things, or that they could draw pictures like that.

I know any $100.00 Deskjet can do the same thing and more, but I really miss watching those little pens going back and forth on a page.
posted by bondcliff at 6:56 AM on April 9, 2010


See also Electronic Visualization Laboratory's YouTube channel, especially the History section. For example, Colorful Colorado, and Calculated Movements (previously).
posted by oulipian at 6:59 AM on April 9, 2010


Okay then: Irony and Utopia: History of Computer Art.

This is a work in progress; we're only at week 5. The rest will get filled in as we move along.
posted by avianism at 7:02 AM on April 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


Wow. That's an incredible resource, avianism! Bookmarked immediately.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:27 AM on April 9, 2010


Great post, Wolfdog! And great link, avianism! Thanks, the both of ya's!
posted by brundlefly at 8:10 AM on April 9, 2010


I remember programs to make stuff like this on my Apple back in the day. Thanks for the flashback, great stuff.
posted by reptile at 8:27 AM on April 9, 2010


I remember my drafting class in the early 1980s had a Terak 8510 CAD system and Houston Instruments plotter. That plotter went through pens like there was no tomorrow. I hate to think how much pen re-orders costed; we certainly didn't have very many on hand.

I also remember how our instructor would go ballistic if someone created a drawing with lots of dotted lines. The plotter would start firing off like an M-16 and our instructor would come dashing over, "Hey, knock it off with those dashed lines. You're all gonna pound the poop out of that pen!"
posted by crapmatic at 9:30 AM on April 9, 2010


Have you guys ever seen a video of Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad, from 1963? It's really mind-blowing.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:47 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


we are all pining for those .tga files right? [analog grouphug]
posted by ouke at 4:24 PM on April 9, 2010


Can anyone identify the music used in Catalog?

The John Whitney Sr. Biographical Web Site (EARLY FILMOGRAPHY) at SIGGRAPH says:

Catalog. (Collection of Computer Graphic effects)
1961. 7 min. Color.
Music: Ornette Coleman.

So, the soundtrack must have been altered on that YouTube clip. Not sure what it is though.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 5:47 PM on April 9, 2010


First link seems to have pooped itself, here's the Coral cache.
posted by Evilspork at 5:47 PM on April 9, 2010


But thanks for asking because now I've found this lovely whitney music box!
posted by shoesfullofdust at 5:52 PM on April 9, 2010


Woo.. I had no idea that there are real people using them
posted by Taylor1976 at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2010


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