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Information Systems

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IS 490


Computer Graphics

May 6, 1996

Table of Contents



How It Was


How It All Began


Times Were Changing 6

Industry's First Attempts


The Second Wave 10

How the Magic is Made 11












Hollywood has gone digital, and the old ways of doing things are dying.

Animation and

special effects created with computers have been embraced by television


advertisers, and movie studios alike. Film editors, who for decades

worked by painstakingly

cutting and gluing film segments together, are now sitting in front of

computer screens.

There, they edit entire features while adding sound that is not only

stored digitally, but

also has been created and manipulated with computers. Viewers are

witnessing the results of

all this in the form of stories and experiences that they never dreamed

of before. Perhaps

the most surprising aspect of all this, however, is that the entire

digital effects and

animation industry is still in its infancy. The future looks bright.

How It Was

In the beginning, computer graphics were as cumbersome and as hard to

control as dinosaurs

must have been in their own time. Like dinosaurs, the hardware systems,

or muscles, of

early computer graphics were huge and ungainly. The machines often

filled entire buildings.

Also like dinosaurs, the software programs or brains of computer

graphics were hopelessly

underdeveloped. Fortunately for the visual arts, the evolution of both

brains and brawn of

computer graphics did not take eons to develop. It has, instead, taken

only three decades

to move from science fiction to current technological trends. With

computers out of the

stone age, we have moved into the leading edge of the silicon era.

Imagine sitting at a

computer without any visual feedback on a monitor. There would be no

spreadsheets, no word

processors, not even simple games like solitaire. This is what it was

like in the early

days of computers. The only way to interact with a computer at that

time was through toggle

switches, flashing lights, punchcards, and Teletype printouts. How It

All Began

In 1962, all this began to change. In that year, Ivan Sutherland, a

Ph.D. student at (MIT),

created the science of computer graphics. For his dissertation, he

wrote a program called

Sketchpad that allowed him to draw lines of light directly on a cathode

ray tube (CRT). The

results were simple and primitive. They were a cube, a series of lines,

and groups of

geometric shapes. This offered an entirely new vision on how computers

could be used. In

1964, Sutherland teamed up with Dr. David Evans at the University of

Utah to develop the

world's first academic computer graphics department. Their goal was to

attract only the most

gifted students from across the country by creating a unique department

that combined hard

science with the creative arts. They new they were starting a brand new

industry and wanted

people who would be able to lead that industry out of its infancy. Out

of this unique mix of

science and art, a basic understanding of computer graphics began to

grow. Algorithms for

the creation of solid objects, their modeling, lighting, and shading

were developed. This

is the roots virtually every aspect of today's computer graphics




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