Archive for the 'Art' Category

Woman Needs Help with ASCII Banner for Uncle's Memorial

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Fuzzy MemoryJust today I received an email asking for help in producing an ASCII-art style printed banner for a memorial service that will take place this Saturday, May 11th, 2013. They will be honoring a lifetime IBM veteran who passed away recently at the age of 69.

I have a few ideas on how to do it, but I'm short on time this week, so I'm hoping someone out there can help her. Here is her email (posted with permission):

Hello. My uncle recently passed away quite unexpectedly at the age of 69. We are holding his memorial on Saturday, May 11th. I have been racking my brain on a way to honor him at his memorial. My uncle was a lifetime IBM employee and computer pioneer.

In 1979, when I was 9 years old, he gave me a banner for my birthday. It was from the old dot matrix printers. It had a silhouette of Snoopy on the top of his dog house and it said "Happy Birthday Chimene". I literally thought it was the coolest thing. This was before home computers and home printers for our family. The letters were made with x or o or maybe dashes. Because my brain had no conceptual framework for the world of computers, I literally wondered if it was created by magic.

I would like to have one of these made for my uncle for his memorial. Do you have any idea how I could go about getting this done? I am not tech savvy so I would love to find someone that can do this for me and do it quickly. I know that there would be no better way for me to honor my uncle and I am desperate to find a way to get this done. Any help you can provide would be so greatly appreciated.

Chimene

Post your suggestions or offers to help in the comments, and Chimene will keep an eye on them. I'll pass along your email address (leave it in the comment form) if she wants to contact you further.

[Update - I helped Chimene construct a banner using "banner" for *nix systems and an old Snoopy ASCII art drawing. She later sent me a photo of the print-out, which she used at the service. ]

High-Res Scan of the World's First Digital Computer Art

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Lawrence Tipton 1959 SAGE Photo of Computer Pin-up Art - World's first figurative digital computer art

Back in January, I wrote an article about the world's earliest known figurative computer art for The Atlantic. It it is also likely the world's first digital computer artwork as well.

(Check out this timeline of computer art history to get an idea where this piece fits in.)

The only known physical record of this circa 1956-58 pin-up diagnostic, which ran on SAGE computer systems, comes from a Polaroid photograph snapped by U.S. airman Lawrence A. Tipton in early 1959. Tipton retains the original print, although it will likely go to a museum soon (more on that when it happens).

Lawrence A. Tipton, circa 2000sThe digital image of the photo used in my Atlantic article was provided by Tipton to a SAGE historian over a decade ago. It was previously the highest-quality version of the photo I had access to, and that posed a few problems. Someone (likely Tipton himself) had hastily retouched the image, removing various scratches, and it was not presented in a high enough resolution to examine in detail.

To remedy that, Tipton was kind enough to make a high resolution scan of the original print and mail it to me on CD-ROM back in February. With his permission, I am providing the high-resolution scan of the pin-up console photo unretouched and unmodified below so that (a) others may learn from it and (b) to ensure that our only record of this important achievement in art is not lost.

[ Continue reading High-Res Scan of the World's First Digital Computer Art » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] X-Men's Colossus BBS Ad

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Colossus X-Men Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

In ye olden days, BBS sysops often tagged image files that came within their possession with makeshift ads for their BBSes, as can be seen here on this image of Marvel's Colossus. The BBS in this case is "The Users's Choice BBS," which sysop Martin Scolero ran in Indianapolis, Indiana between 1990 and 1996. (That info is courtesy a historical BBS list created by Jason Scott.)

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] X-Men's Colossus BBS Ad » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Delicious Strawberry

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Amiga Strawberry Art 1986 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ] [ 4:3 Ratio ]

It's hard to believe that an artist created this delectable representation of a strawberry using only tiny digital squares in a mere 16 different shades. Whomever made it did so in 1986 on a Commodore Amiga: the signature date, image dimensions, color depth, and color resolution all point to those facts.

Obviously, due to its age, this image did not originate as a GIF. CompuServe introduced the first GIF standard in 1987.

I know of three other works by this same artist (all signed with the same signature), and they're all amazing. I'll probably post them in the future, but for reference, those other works depict a stylized lion head, a pair of feminine human lips, and a "Liquid Light" logo.

But I can't quite read the signature. It looks like it starts with a "K." Can anybody out there help me find this artists' name?

[ Update: 03/06/2013 - Gino in the comments identified this image as the work of Kara Blohm, a well-known Amiga font and graphics artist who is now sadly deceased. Thanks, Gino! ]

[ Wondering what a GIF is? Read the introduction to this column. ]

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: STRAWBRY.GIF
Oldest Known File Date: January 21, 1993 - 2:43:32 AM Eastern
Source File Format: GIF - 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 640 x 400 pixels
Color Depth: 4-bit (16 color)
Color Resolution
(palette size):
12-bit (4096 colors)
Origin Platform: Amiga
Derived From: Unknown
Creation Date: 1986
Artist: Kara Blohm
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Digital Still Life

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Vintage Fruit and Vegetable Still Life 1988 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ] [ 4:3 Ratio ]

Have you ever seen an edible still life rendered in 16-color EGA?

It appears that this image, which shows fruits and vegetables, cheese, and a napkin or folded tablecloth, originated as either a video capture or a scan of a photograph that was then digitally cleaned up to isolate the centerpiece in absolute blackness.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Digital Still Life » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Doom II at the Office

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Doom II Office Fan Art 1996 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

This particular image, titled "Another Day at the Office," is one of the gems of my personal GIF collection. I believe I downloaded it from CompuServe, and I likely downloaded it on the file date, June 16, 1996.

The image itself is a computer-crafted ode to Doom II that merges a real digitized photograph with imagery ripped straight from id Software's famous first-person shooter.

Such a passion for Doom II in the workplace isn't foreign to me. In an office where I worked in the mid-late 1990s, certain engineers were known to play late night four-player Doom deathmatches over the company LAN.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Doom II at the Office » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Twin Chinese Dragons

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Apple I Smithsonian 1992 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

This week we're taking a look at another image that made the rounds in the BBS days, DRAGON6.GIF. In it, we see two digitally illustrated Chinese dragons who appear to be springing forth from a magical stone. Iridescent waves crash around them, and smoke curls throughout an ethereal void. The color palette is rich and bold, underscoring the image's Eastern art influence.

At the moment, the artist behind this amazing work of digital art remains unknown. Still, we can narrow down when the image was made and how by taking a look at its resolution, color depth, and file date.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Twin Chinese Dragons » ]

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Cheryl Tiegs: Queen of the GIF

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Apple I Smithsonian 1992 Retro GIFClick to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ] [ 4:3 Ratio ]

I've always thought of VC&G as sort of a family friendly blog, so I don't plan on delving into adult GIFs any time soon. But we might as well talk about bikini photos, because they were some of the most heavily traded GIF images in the BBS days. They provided culturally acceptable PG- or PG-13-level titillation, and male teenagers (arguably the primary users of BBS systems in many areas) flocked to them.

Just recently, I searched my GIF archives for the oldest GIF format bikini photo I could find. I came up with this image of Cheryl Tiegs in a file dated October 29th, 1987, which is only four months after the June 15, 1987 publication date of the first GIF specification (GIF87a, for those keeping track).

The image itself is derived from a photo taken by Walter Iooss Jr. for the 1978 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The sharpness of the image suggests to me that it was scanned (vs. video captured), either with a flatbed or handheld color scanner, and likely from that issue itself.

I don't know who scanned it. It could have been Jim Maxey, who originated many GIF files in the format's early days, but since the image isn't tagged with his BBS information, I doubt it. Maxey also tended to work with video capture boards verses scanners at that time.

Regardless of who created this image, it's a nice, relatively tame example of 16-color EGA bikini art. Upon viewing it, you can almost feel its 1970s girl-next-door wholesomeness flowing out of your computer screen. And that's despite her see-through fishnet bathing suit, which was scandalous in 1978.

(Note that Tiegs' name is misspelled in the file name as "TEIGS")

[ Wondering what a GIF is? Read the introduction to this column. ]

Retro GIF of the Week Fact Box
Source File Name: TEIGS.GIF
Source File Date: October 29, 1987
Source File Format: GIF - 87a (non-interlaced)
Dimensions: 640 x 350 pixels (EGA)
Color Depth: 4-bit (16 color)
Origin Platform: IBM PC
Derived From: Scanned photograph taken by Walter Iooss Jr.
Creation Date: 1987
Artist: Unknown
If you know more about the origin of this image, please leave a comment.

The World's Earliest Known Figurative Computer Art

Friday, January 25th, 2013

SAGE Pin-Up First Computer Art First Computer Porn

Thirty-five thousand years ago, when massive beasts still roamed the earth, an early modern human carved the figure of a sexually robust woman into a piece of woolly mammoth tusk, creating the earliest known figurative artwork. During a time of almost certain hardship and scarcity, when acquiring that tusk involved slaying an animal 100 times one's weight, the artist devoted countless hours to create a sculpture that idolized nothing less than sex itself.

35 millennia later, during a time when computing power was so scarce that it required a government defense budget to finance it, a late modern human utilized a $238 million military computer, the largest such machine ever built, to render an image of a sexually robust woman on a glowing cathode ray tube screen. The year was 1956, and its creation was a landmark moment in computer graphics and cultural history that has gone unnoticed until now.

You can read the full story I wrote about this landmark piece of digital art over at The Atlantic. I'd like to personally thank Lawrence Tipton, Robert Martina, and all of the SAGE veterans who helped me research this piece.

[ Retro GIF of the Week ] Digitized Autumn Leaves

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Autumn Leaves MaxiPic Jim Maxey Retro GIF - circa 1988Click to see other views of this image: [ Original Size ] [ 2X Zoom ]

From 1983 to 1996, James "Jim" Maxey operated a very successful Oregon-based BBS called Event Horizons. Through that board's file section, Maxey made available thousands of GIF images in many categories, from landscapes to pornography, that he had created using a video digitizer board and conversion software called T-EGA.

Bob Talmadge wrote an excellent profile of Jim Maxey's BBS years for his site BBSDays.com. I recommend reading it if you're interested in learning more about Maxey's BBS. Also, Jack Rickard of BoardWatch magazine mentioned Maxey's early 1990s image-related BBS activities in an article he wrote for Wired issue 1.04 in 1993.

The early and pioneering nature of Maxey's color graphics files for IBM PC computers ensured that his digital pictures, which he called "MaxiPics," spread far and wide to other BBSes at the time. This is one such picture, and it depicts a house and yard in autumn. The 640 x 350 EGA format file dates from 1987 and was likely captured from a video source — more on that in a moment.

[ Continue reading [ Retro GIF of the Week ] Digitized Autumn Leaves » ]