I loved the question that Steve recently asked on his blog
about what your earliest computer experiences were. It brought back a lot of memories, but quickly turned into something that's too long for a comment on his blog. I thought it would be worth sharing here, because I was extremely lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and I saw the world of computing change suddenly and dramatically. If you're interested in the computer graphics (I assume you are if you're reading this blog), then it's a bit of history that you should probably know about.
I first started using computers when I got to MIT in 1976. At that time, we were writing our code on IBM 029 keypunches
And we were preparing our data using IBM card sorters
I still retain a very visceral feel for the radix sort algorithm
because of turning those brass cranks to select the next column and restacking the cards and putting them back into the hopper.
But over the next year or so, we mostly moved to the fancy new DECWriters
As Steve said, this is when computer games came into my life with games like star trek
, and empire
But I'm a graphics guy, so the machine which really changed things for me was the Tektronix 4014
We had to cut paper tapes to get our data over to the 4014, but the ability to make pictures was awfully exciting, even if the pictures were just green wireframes.
But shortly after that, in building N51
, I encountered a one-of-a-kind machine named SYS at the Visual Language Workshop.
It's hard to convey what a shock that system was at the time, because so many parts of it have become part of our daily life now. It had a high-res color display, image editing software, a scanner, and multiple color output devices. It was as if the people Muriel Cooper
gathered together at the VLW had used a time machine to steal an artifact from the future.
After I left MIT, I was lucky enough to be able to go on to work with a long list of amazing people to actually help build the world that I had gotten a peek at in N51. It's certainly been an exciting 40 years in computer graphics, and I feel very privileged to have been part of it.