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

April 9th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

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 » ]

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] At Home in High Heels

March 4th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Business woman on Family & Home Office Computing Cover October 1987"Pardon me, m'am, but your wall is glowing."

The cover of this October 1987 issue of Family & Home Office Computing is so sociologically charged that you could interpret it in dozens of ways — some of them seemingly contradictory.

The cover story and art are reflective of the 1970s women's movement in the US that empowered women to more freely seek careers outside of the home. And yet it's referring to a woman working from home — while wearing semi-formal business attire, nonetheless. (I'm not particularly equipped to critique women's fashion, but I can imagine that some women today would find the idea of working at home in this kind of outfit to be amusing.)

Plenty of people do office-style work from home these days, but in 1987, that was a very new concept. It was all made possible by advances in telecommunications and personal computers. But the concept brought with it many new challenges.

The lady seen here is a mom (see mug), and she has to worry about "juggling career and family," as the cover states — a tricky issue that will never fully be resolved in any decade. Does she care for her children during the day, or are they at school? Is she an employee or a business owner? Why did she choose an Epson-brand PC compatible machine?

While these are all very real concerns, in this case we can answer every question quite easily: she's just a model in a magazine cover shoot.

[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.33 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do any women read this blog? [echo, echo…] What do you think of this cover image?

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The World's Earliest Known Figurative Computer Art

January 25th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

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.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Altos Computer Systems

December 31st, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Altos Computer Systems ACS8000-6 and Sun-Series ad - 1979"The first business computer system that will not instantly crush your secretary."

Happy New Year from Vintage Computing and Gaming!

[ From BYTE, November 1979, p.21 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Quick! Name your favorite computer, calculator, or console with a Z80 CPU.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Age of Data Entry

August 13th, 2012 by Benj Edwards

IMS International 5000 IS Desktop Mainframe Advertisement - 1983The IMS 5000IS: Your Key to Office Neck Pain

It's almost amusing to recall the days when secretarial computer work mostly involved data entry and/or printing. (In this case, data entry inspired the neck-cramping computer setup seen here.) Both of those activities were designed to bridge the world of the computer and the world of paper.

By the mid-1990s, the introduction of low-cost scanners paired with optical character recognition (OCR) software helped relieve the tedium of typing in paper-bound data by hand.

Today, such scanning happens far less frequently, as most text-based data originates in the computer space to begin with. And many times it stays there, too: office workers regularly publish data electronically to the Internet or share it over local networks and email, making routine printing (and routine data entry) far more uncommon tasks in the year 2012 than they were in the 1990s.

See Also: The Too-Personal Computer (2010)

[ From Interface Age, May 1983, p.90 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Was there ever a time when you were forced to do lots of manual data entry? Tell us about it.

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Too-Personal Computer

April 5th, 2010 by Benj Edwards

IMS International Ad - 1983"Is your personal computer TOO personal?"

Facetious 1980s computer manual quote: "Never operate a computer with the monitor sitting directly in front of you. Neck torsion increases muscle tone and blood flow to the brain, resulting in higher computing performance."

[ From Interface Age, November 1983, p.13 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever been forced to share a PC with someone else? Tell us about it.

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