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How Computer-Generated Animations Were Made, Circa 1964
Interesting computer-made presentation demonstrating the earlier concepts of computer graphics. It is 15 minutes long, silent, and very slow moving, but from a digital literacy perspective, essential watching:
This film explains how the computer scientists and mathematicians at Bell Labs created early computer graphics films, like most (though not all) of these films, made by Bell Labs employees E.E. Zajac, A. Michael Noll, Ken Knowlton, Frank Sinden, and many others.
This film, A Computer Technique For the Production of Animated Movies, from 1964, gives the basics on the process, from Ken Knowlton’s BEFLIX programming language for a raster-scan (bitmap) output, to the hardware details (IBM 7094 mainframe, Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm printer).
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One of the First Computer-Generated Films, from 1963 - AT&T Archives
A short, simple 3D animation of a satellite object orbiting a globe:
This film was a specific project to define how a particular type of satellite would move through space. Edward E. Zajac made, and narrated, the film, which is considered to be possibly the very first computer graphics film ever. Zajac programmed the calculations in FORTRAN, then used a program written by Zajac’s colleague, Frank Sinden, called ORBIT. The original computations were fed into the computer via punch cards, then the output was printed onto microfilm using the General Dynamics Electronics Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm recorder. All computer processing was done on an IBM 7090 or 7094 series computer.
Zajac didn’t make the film to demonstrate computer graphics, however. Instead, he was interested in real-time modeling of a certain theoretical construct. At the time, The Bell System was still deeply engaged in satellite research, having launched Telstar the previous year, with plans to continue developing communications satellites. Zajac’s model is of a box (“satellite”), with two gyroscopes within. In the film, he was trying to create a simulation of movement — the pitch, roll, and yaw within that system.