Category: History

A History Of The GIF In Two Minutes

It is unofficially/officially/whatever-ly the year of the GIF. Even though it seems like the year of the GIF has been going on for the past two years or so, this year the OED named “GIF” their USA word of the year and it turned 25 years old, ergo it’s the year of the GIF. That’s how it works.

Read the complete article at The Creators Project.

The Beautiful Math Behind Hollywood’s First Computer-Generated Sequence


You might think about big Hollywood movies these days not just as stories, but increasingly as attempts to tackle tough problems. I don’t mean how to fix our educational system or our foreign policy. I mean how to make maximum returns off a multimillion dollar investment—and how to make magic look real. For the VFX whiz kids, this is actually a math problem. The movie is a kind of solution, and we decide if it’s right.

The modern search for better solutions arguably began in the 1970s, with Hollywood’s special effects heavyweights turning to computers for the most cutting-edge film scenes—like the light bike races in Tron, which, as I wrote back when, gave rise to Perlin noise, which allowed the kind of computer-generated natural-looking surfaces that trick us into thinking that we’re really hunting the Opposing Force or visiting Pandora.

Read the complete article at The Creators Project.

A Billion Years In The Future, This Disc Containing 100 Images Will Tell Our Story


Think you could tell the story of the human race in only 100 pictures?

That’s the challenge that MIT resident artist Trevor Paglen tackled when he conceived The Last Pictures five years ago. The goal of the project is to record a montage of human life and achievements onto a medium that can last until intelligent life in the distant future discovers it, even if it takes a billion years for them to find it.

The aim isn’t simply to create a visual history of humanity necessarily, but a collection that synergistically offers more depth and narrative about human civilization. As Paglen describes it: “The Last Pictures isn’t really an archive so much as a kind of silent film or visual poem.”

Now on November 20, the special archival disc dubbed “the Artifact” with the images etched onto it is scheduled to launch into space onboard the EchoStar XVI communications satellite, which will reside in a geosynchronous orbit for the next 15 years until it is retired into a satellite junkyard. There it will sit potentially until Earth is no longer habitable and humans are either far away or extinct.

Read the complete article at Singularity Hub.

Retro Commercials: One Company Dared To Compete With IBM And Macintosh Computers In 1984


Still, one company that decided to go head-to-head with IBM for the business market was Compaq. The Houston-based company began in 1982 by three former Texas Instruments managers and set out to compete directly with Big Blue using a now common refrain of “the same, but faster.” Because Compaq was waging a technology race against a company that had solid branding, it needed a trick up its sleeve.

That trick turned out to be John Cleese of Monty Python fame.

Read the complete article and watch more commercials featuring John Cleese at Singularity Hub.

Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Computer Graphics & Art 1976 – 1978

A brief look at a short-lived American quarterly publication, which gives a little insight into the practice of art with computers in the 1970’s. While a product of its time, there are some places with resonances to the practice of today.

Read the complete article at Rhizome.

Where Did Augmented Reality Come From?

The common insult “out of touch with reality” refers to those with abnormal thoughts and ideas, but the negative connotation didn’t scare foward-thinkers away from trying to create a version of the world that was unreal, but in a good way.

Over the past few decades, this artificial view of the physical world — known as augmented reality — matured from a scientist’s plaything to a part of daily life. Augmented reality is defined as a composite, or false view of the world created by computer-generated images, in real time.

Morton Heilig is known as the “Father of Virtual reality” for his research and inventions in the ’50s and ’60s. He patented the Sensorama Stimulator (shown on the right), which he called an “experience theater,” on Aug. 28, 1962.

Read the complete article at Mashable.

The Art of Web Design (Video)

Read the accompanying article at BoingBoing.

The Original Hacker and Why His Work, 300 Years Ago, Matters Today

Alan Turing is often given the unofficial title of being the original hacker.  He’s a worthy choice.  His 1950 essay, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, is still consulted today by those contemplating the gap between software and human brains.


But Turing was able to use machines that were built on the work of others as decades of hardware progression continued to push toward the semiconductor age.  And what of the theory behind the hardware?  Some form of it had to come first, of course.  George Boole, for one, conceived of devices—Boolean operators—that still dot programming today.  Their roots trace to Boole’s 1854 paper, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on Which Are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities.

Before Boole there were others: Euclid, Euler, Newton and the Bernoullis. They all contributed. Naming one of them the original hacker requires a dash of subjective judgment.  A case could be made for a dozen people.  But none of them, in this writer’s opinion, quite so fill the role as does Gottfried Leibniz, a German who preceded iOS by 360 years.

Leibniz, like Newton, his contemporary, was a polymath. His knowledge and curiosity spanned the European continent and most of its interesting subjects. On philosophy, Leibniz said, there are two simple absolutes: God and nothingness. From these two, all other things come. How fitting, then, that Leibniz conceived of a calculating language defined by two and only two figures: 0 and 1.

Read the complete article at Forbes.

This Is What Looked Like in 1990, the 57th most trafficked site in the world, was born in the late 1980s on a Usenet board called rec.arts.movies where movie buffs swapped lists of actors, casts, directors and other trivia. But lists are only so useful.

In October 1990, someone asked the board, “Does anyone out there have a Unix or C program which can ‘interrogate’ the actor/actress files? What I want to be able to do is to type in an actor/actress’ name and get out a list of all the films which they appeared in.”

Read the complete article at ReadWriteWeb.

Technostalgia: 20 Misty Memories of Personal Computing

Comment:  Is it weird that I still use the interface pictured in number 19?

1. The Dial-Up Sound

2. You’ve Got Mail!

AOL’s email notification sound was positively Pavlovian for many ’90s netizens. It was confirmation that a) you had successfully connected to the ISP, and b) someone out there likes you.

Those dulcet tones belong to voice actor Elwood Edwards, whose wife worked for AOL in 1989. She brought tape of his other famous phrases — “welcome,” “goodbye,” and “file’s done” — into the office. The rest is history.

3. The Whir of a Floppy Disk Drive

In their prime, each one of these puppies could hold about 120 MB — great for storing a few documents or images; less great for large applications and games. Before CD-ROMs became the norm, you might need 10 or 15 disks to install one program.

Listening to the drive tick away while the progress bar drew closer to 100% was like Christmas Eve for anxious young nerds.

Read the complete list (and listen to accompanying tracks for number 1 to 3) at Mashable.