The History of Computer Graphics

In the last 80 years or so, computer graphics have made phenomenal advancements. The history of computer graphics can be traced to the invention of the thermionic valve or electron tube. The thermionic valve or electron tube made possible to generate black and white images. Later, the technology improved, and color images in computer and television screens became possible.



William Fetter, a graphic designer for Boeing, coined the term “Computer Graphics” in 1960. Graphics created from computers are called Computer Graphics. When data in image form is processed and manipulated by a computer with help from specialized software and hardware, they are called Computer Graphics.

Today, Computer Graphics are extensively used in the field of education, and science and technology. Computer-aided design, computer simulation, digital art, graphic design, animation, video games, virtual reality and web design are some of the field that make wide use of Computer Graphics.

The thermionic valve or electron tube

Invention of the thermionic valve or electron tube is believed to be the beginning of computer graphics. This technology was used to generate, first black and white and later color, images in television screens. The same technology was used in computers to display graphics. In the beginning the technology was so primitive that computer could only display 256 colors. Most of the computer generated images were fancy boarders and simple pictures.

In 1961 Steve Russell, a student at MIT, created the first video game, Spacewar. After the success of the world’s first video game, companies began extensive research in computer graphics. IBM unveiled the first commercially available graphics computer in 1966.

In 1968 Sutherland, who had invented the first computer controlled head-mounted display (HMD) at MIT, joined with David C. Evans in the University of Utah. Interestingly, NASA rediscovered Sutherland’s techniques in virtual reality research twenty years later. Many of the early breakthroughs in Computer Graphics inventions occurred at the University of Utah in the 1970s. Students like Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke developed animation techniques at the University of Utah. John Warnock, who later found Adobe Systems, and Tom Stockham – who later found Silicon Graphics – were also associated with University of Utah.

The first major advance in 3D computer graphics was created at these early pioneers.

By the 1980s, personal computers such as Commodore Amiga and Macintosh were developing as a design tool. In the late 1980s, the first fully computer-generated short films were developed at Pixar by using SGI computers.



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  • Comments

    1. Profile photo of Pat Z Anthony
      Pat Z Anthony

      As so many have no idea what the history of computer graphics is, they might be surprised to learn how long things have been around. Also, to realize how things evolved in the computer world. Image what the next decade will bring.

      1. Profile photo of Vinaya
        Vinaya Post author

        Development in computer science seems to be faster than in other areas

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