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Pioneers of CGI – Part I – 1930 to 1980 – analog to digital | History of Design

Pioneers of CGI – Part I – 1930 to 1980 – analog to digital



Valensi proposes color TV


Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard design the Audio Oscillator  


  • John Whitney enters first International Experimental Film Competition in Belgium

  • Mary Ellen Butte



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



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



  • SAGE system at Lincoln Lab uses first light pen (Ivan Sutherland)



  • Lawrence Livermore National Labs connects graphics display to IBM 704; use film recorder for color images



  • Saul Bass creates titles for Hitchcock’s 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



  • 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



  • Spacewars, 1st video game, developed by Steve Russell at MIT for the PDP-1


  • 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
  • Early computer generated film by Edward Zajac (Bell Labs)
  • Michael Noll (Bell Labs) starts his Gaussian Quadratic series of artwork
  • 1966. Michael Noll & Kenneth Knowlton | by Eliza Pertigkiozoglou | Medium
  • 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
  • Ruth Weiss introduces drawing software that performs hidden line elimination
  • Electronic character generator
  • RAND tablet input device (commercially known as Grafacon)



  • 1st computer art exhibition, at Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart
  • Utah computer science department founded
  • Bresenham Algorithm for plotting lines
    Tektronix DVST
  • Tektronix Direct View Storage Tube (DVST)
  • 1st U.S. computer art exhibition, at Howard Wise Gallery in New York

Computer-Generated Pictures (Noll & Julesz) | Database of Digital Art


  • Odyssey, home video game developed by Ralph Baer of Sanders Assoc., is 1st consumer CG product
  • Plasma Panel introduced (first developed at Illinois in 1964 as part of the PLATO project)
  • Studies in Perception
  • Studies in Perception I by Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon (Bell Labs)
  • MAGI founded by Phil Mittleman
  • Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) started in New York by artist Robert Rauschenberg and Bell Labs engineer Billy Klüver
  • IBM awards Artist-in-Residence to John Whitney, Sr.
  • Loutrel hidden line algorithm
  • Lincoln Wand developed

2017-chm-fellow-lawrence-roberts-lincoln-wand-paulrovner - CHM


  • Appel hidden line algorithm
  • Steven Coons publishes his surface patch “little red book” (Ref: Coons, Steven A. 1967. Surfaces for Computer-aided Design of Space Forms , Project MAC Report MAC-TR-41. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Sine Curve Man and Hummingbird created by Chuck Csuri
  • MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies founded by Gyorgy Kepes


  • 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
  • Permutations – John Whitney, Sr.
  • Sutherland Head Mounted Display
  • Evans & Sutherland Calma, Computek, Houston Instrument, Imlac founded


  • Computer Space arcade game built by Nolan Bushnell
  • Xerox PARC founded
  • Lee Harrison’s CAESAR animation system
  • Bell Labs builds first framebuffer (3 bits)
    U-matic Tape
  • Sony U-Matic 3/4″ video cassette
  • 1st use of CGI for commercials – MAGI for IBM
  • SIGGRAPH formed
  • ComputerVision, Applicon, Vector General founded
  • ARPANET is born
  • Graphical User Interface (GUI) developed by Xerox (Alan Kay)


Sonic Pen
  • Sonic Pen 3-D input device
  • Watkins algorithm for visible surfaces
  • Lillian Schwartz produces Pixellation at Bell Labs
  • Pierre Bezier from Renault develops Bezier freeform curve representation
    Bezier Curve


  • Gouraud shading
  • Ramtek founded
  • GINO – Cambridge University
    Intel 4004
  • Intel 4004 4-bit processor
  • Interactive Graphics for Computer-Aided Design (Prince) published
    Floppy Disk
  • Floppy disk (8″) – IBM


  • MAGI Synthevision started
  • CGRG founded at Ohio State
  • NASA IPAD initiative started
  • Graphics Standards Planning Committee organized by ACM-SIGGRAPH
  • The @ symbol selected for email addresses by BBN
  • Emmy awarded to Lee Harrison for SCANIMATE
  • Alto computer introduced by Xerox PARC (Alan Kay)
    Intel 8008
  • 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
  • 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



  • 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)
  • Intel (Zilog) 8080
  • Z-buffer developed by Ed Catmull (University of Utah)
  • Futureworld (sequel to Westworld) uses 3D CGI (III)
  • Hunger/La Faim produced by Peter Foldes at National Research Council of Canada; wins Cannes Film Festival Prix de Jury award for animation


  • Phong shading – Bui-Tuong Phong (University of Utah)
  • 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)


  • MIT’s Visible Language Workshop founded by Muriel Cooper
  • Ed Catmull develops “tweening” software (NYIT)
  • Jim Clark’s Hierarchical model for visible surface detection
  • 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
  • Sony Beta home video
  • Floppy disk (5 1/4″)
  • Apple 1 (Wozniak)
  • Computer Graphics Newsletter started by Joel Orr;
  • Peter Fonda’s head digitized and rendered by III for Futureworld
  • 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
  • Frank Crow introduces antialiasing
  • Jim Blinn introduces a new illumination model that considers surface “facets”
  • Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences introduces Visual Effects category for Oscars
  • R/Greenberg founded (Richard and Robert Greenberg)
  • SIGGRAPH CORE Graphics standard
  • Ampex ESSTM (Electronic Still Store) system introduced for network sports slo-mo
  • Larry Cuba produces Death Star simulation for Star Wars


  • Tom DeFanti’s GRASS system rewritten for Bally home computer (Zgrass)
  • Digital Effects founded (Judson Rosebush, Jeff Kleiser, et al)
  • Lance Williams curved shadows paper
  • Ikonas frame buffer – England/Whitton
    Leroy Nieman
  • 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)
  • James Blinn produces the first of a series of animations titled The Mechanical Universe
  • Bump mapping introduced


  • National Computer Graphics Association (NCGA) organized by Peter Preuss of ISSCO and Joel Orr
  • IGES graphics file format specified
    IBM 3279
  • Motorola 68000 32-bit processor
  • Atari 8-bit computers introduced
  • Disney produces The Black Hole using CGI for the opening
  • George Lucas hires Ed Catmull, Ralph Guggenheim and Alvy Ray Smith to form Lucasfilm
  • Sunstone – Ed Emshwiller (NYIT)



  • Vol Libre – Loren Carpenter of Boeing
    Apollo Computer
  • Apollo Computer founded – introduces the 68000 based DN100 workstation
  • Turner Whitted of Bell Labs publishes ray tracing paper
  • First NCGA conference – Arlington, Virginia – Steven Levine, President
    Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong introduced by Nintendo (Mario named in US release)
  • IBM licenses DOS from Microsoft
  • Apple Computer IPO – 4.6M shares @ $22
  • Aurora Systems founded by Richard Shoup
  • SIGGRAPH Core standard reorganized as ANSC X3H3.1
  • EUROGRAPHICS (The European Association for Computer Graphics) formed; first conference at Geneva
  • Disney contracts Abel, III, MAGI and DE for computer graphics for the movie Tron
  • MIT Media Lab founded by Nicholas Negroponte
  • Pacific Data Images founded by Carl Rosendahl
  • Hanna-Barbera, largest producer of animation in the U.S., begins computer automation
  • Quantel introduces Paintbox


  • Sony Betacam
  • Tom DeFanti expands GRASS to Bally Z-50 machine (ZGRASS) – University Illinois – Chicago Circle
  • IBM introduces the first IBM PC (16 bit 8088 chip)
  • DEC introduces VT100
  • IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications published by IEEE Computer Society and NCGA
  • Ampex ADO® system introduced; garners an Emmy award in 1983
  • Digital Productions formed by Whitney and Demos
  • Cranston/Csuri Productions founded by Chuck Csuri, Robert Kanuth and Jim Kristoff.
  • R/Greenberg opens CGI division (Chris Woods)
  • MITI Fifth Generation Computer Project announced by Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry
  • REYES renderer written at LucasFilm
  • Penguin Software (now Polarware) introduces the Complete Graphics System
  • Looker includes the virtual human character Cindy (Susan Dey) – 1st film with shaded graphics(III)
    Adam Powers
  • Adam Powers, the Juggler produced by III
  • Carla’s Island – Nelson Max


  • The Last Starfighter (Digital Productions) begins production
  • Tron released
  • The Geometry Engine (Clark)
  • Jim Clark founds Silicon Graphics Inc.
  • Sun Microsystems founded (sun := Stanford University Network)
  • Alain Fournier , Don Fussell , Loren Carpenter, Computer Rendering of Stochastic Models. Communications of the ACM, v.25 n.6, p.371-384, June 1982 (Fractal Rendering paper)
  • Skeleton Animation System (SAS) developed at CGRG at Ohio State (Dave Zeltzer)
  • Sony still frame video camera (Mavica)
  • ACM begins publication of TOG (Transactions on Graphics)
  • Tom Brighham develops morphing (NYIT)
  • Adobe founded by John Warnock
  • Toyo Links established in Tokyo
  • Quantel Mirage
  • Symbolics Graphics Division founded
  • EPCOT Center opens
  • Atari develops the data glove.
  • Where the Wild Things Are test (MAGI) – digital compositing used to combine CG backgrounds and traditional animation
  • AutoDesk founded; AutoCAD released
    Frames from the Genesis Effect
  • ILM computer graphics division develops “Genesis effect” for Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan


  • Particle systems (Reeves – Lucasfilm)
  • Computer Graphics SGI IRIS 1000 graphics workstation
  • Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines (NURBS) introduced by Tiller (Note: this date is somewhat misleading, since the concept built on the work of Vesprille (1975), Riesenfeld (1973), Knapp (1979), Coons (1968) and Forrest (1972))
  • Road to Point Reyes created – Lucasfilm
  • The Last Starfighter released
  • Jim Blinn receives the first (1983) ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
  • Ivan Sutherland receives the first (1983) ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
  • Steve Dompier’s “Micro Illustrator”
  • UNIX System V
  • Utah Raster Toolkit introduced (Spencer Thomas)
  • Autodesk introduces first PC-based CAD software
  • Alias founded in Toronto by Stephen Bingham, Nigel McGrath, Susan McKenna and David Springer mip-mapping introduced for efficient texture mapping (Williams – NYIT) (Ref: Williams, Lance. Pyramidal Parametrics. Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH 83 Proceedings) 17(3) July 1983, p. 1-11.
    Sony CD Player
  • Sony and Philips introduce 1st CD player
  • Wacom Co., Ltd started in Japan


  • Robert Abel & Associates produces the 1st computer generated 30 second commercial used for Super Bowl (Brilliance)
    Scene from Brilliance
  • Wavefront Technologies is the first commercially available 3D software package (founded by Mark Sylvester, Larry Barels and Bill Kovacs )
  • Thomson Digital Image (TDI) founded
  • Jim Clark receives the 1984 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
  • International Resource Development report predicts the extinction of the keyboard in the next decade
  • A-buffer (or alpha-buffer) introduced by Carpenter of Lucasfilm
  • Distributed ray tracing introduced by Lucasfilm
  • Cook shading model (Lucasfilm)
  • 14.5 minute computer generated IMAX film (The Magic Egg) shown at SIGGRAPH 84
  • Universal Studios opens CG department
  • First Macintosh computer is sold; introduced with Clio award winning commercial 1984 during Super Bowl
  • McDonnel Douglas introduces the Polhemus 3Space digitizer and body Tracker
    Cornell Box
  • The Cornell Box invented by Cohen
  • Radiosity born – Cornell University
  • John Lasseter joins Lucasfilm
  • Motorola 68020
  • Digital Productions (Whitney and Demos) get Academy Technical Achievement Award for CGI simulation of motion picture photography
    Motorola 68020
  • Lucasfilms introduces motion blur effects
  • Porter and Duff compositing algorithm (Lucasfilm)
  • The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. (Lucasfilm)


  • Commodore launches the new Amiga
  • Max Headroom – computer-mediated live action figure
  • Judson Rosebush Co. started
  • Abel Image Research takes Robert Abel & Associates to shaded graphics business
    Tony De Peltrie
  • Tony de Peltrie airs
  • stereo TV
  • Biosensor (Toyo Links)
  • Cray 2
  • GKS standard
  • Quantel Harry is first non-linear editor
  • UNIX X10R1
  • CGW predicts 90s graphics workstation
  • Targa 16 board (AT&T) goes to market
  • Pixar Image Computer goes to market
  • NeXT Incorporated founded by Steve Jobs and five former Apple senior managers
  • Perlin’s noise functions introduced (Ref: Perlin, Ken. An Image Synthesizer. Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH 85 Proceedings) 19(3) July 1985, p. 287-296.)
  • CD-ROMs High Sierra (ISO9660) standard introduced
  • PostScript (Adobe – John Warnock)
  • PODA creature animation system developed by Girard and Maciejewski at Ohio State (Ref: Girard, Michael and A. A. Maciejewski. Computational Modeling for the Computer Animation of Legged Figures. Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH 85 Proceedings) 19(3) July 1985, p. 263-270.)
  • Boss Films founded by Richard Edlund
    Media Lab
  • MIT Media Lab moves to new home
  • Young Sherlock Holmes stained glass knight (Lucasfilm), 2010 (Boss Films)and Looker (DP)


  • The Great Mouse Detective was the first animated film to be aided by CG.
  • Pixar purchased from Lucasfilm by Steve Jobs
  • X-Window System (MIT Project Athena)
  • Trancept Systems founded by Nick England and Mary Whitton – graphics board for Sun
  • CGI group starts at Industrial Light and Magic (Doug Kay and George Joblove)
  • Softimage founded by Daniel Langlois in Montreal
  • Computer Associates acquires ISSCO
  • Microsoft goes public (IPO raises $61M; share prices go from $21 to $28)
  • Apple IIgs introduced
  • Silicon Graphics Incorporated IPO
  • SGI IRIS 3000 (MIPS processor)
  • Turner Whitted receives the 1986 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
    Jim Henson – Waldo
  • Jim Henson Waldo project introduces motion capture (Digital Productions)
  • Kajiya’s Rendering Equation
  • Omnibus assumes Robert Able & Associates and Digital Productions
  • Whitney/Demos Productions founded
  • Luxo Jr. nominated for Oscar (first CGI film to be nominated – Pixar)
Luxo Jr.
  • TIFF (Aldus)
  • Scitex founded for prepress



  • GIF format (CompuServe), JPEG format (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
  • Willow (Lucasfilm) popularizes morphing
  • Max Headroom debuts
  • LucasArts formed
  • CGM (Computer Graphics Metafile) standard
  • Side Effects Software established
  • VGA (Video Graphivs Array) invented by IBM
  • Windows 2.0, MS/OS 2, Excel
    Sparc Station 4
  • Sun 4 SPARC workstation
  • Reynolds’ flocking behavior algorithm (Symbolics) (Ref: Reynolds, Craig W. Flocks, Herds and Schools: A Distributed Behavior Model. Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH 87 Proceedings) 21(4) July 1987, p. 25-34.)
  • Stanley and Stella in: Breaking the Ice
  • Rob Cook receives the 1987 ACM SIGGRAPH CG Achievement Award
  • Don Greenberg receives the 1987 ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award
  • Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) founded at Ohio State (formerly CGRG)
  • Omnibus closes, eliminating DP and Abel
  • Cranston/Csuri Productions closes
  • Marching Cubes algorithm (Lorensen and Cline – GE) (Ref: Lorensen, William and Harvey E. Cline. Marching Cubes: A High Resolution 3D Surface Construction Algorithm. Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH 87 Proceedings) 21(4) July 1987, p. 163-170. )
  • Metrolight Studios, RezN8 Productions, Kleiser/Walczak Construction Co., DeGraf/Wahrman founded
  • Adobe Illustrator