Karen Moltenbrey Chief Editor
Do you remember when CAD tools began making it easier for designers to do their job? Do you recall when computer gaming meant arcade-style video games with rudimentary images? When computer-generated images on the small screen were an Olympic event? What about when CG became a viable part of scientific visualization in fields ranging from agronomy and astronomy to mathematics and medicine? Or the debut of TRON, which required all-digital shots inside a computer game at a time when few companies knew how to create a CG effect?
These are but a few of the industry highlights that have occurred during the last three decades, and Computer Graphics World has been there every step of the way covering the cutting-edge of what was a new technology called computer graphics. Today we may chuckle when we look at the imagery from those moments, thinking the results to be rather crude compared to today’s visuals. But, had it not been for the hard work and dedication of industry pioneers—individuals, companies, studios, and educational institutions alike—we would not be admiring the lifelike digital characters in today’s blockbuster films, neither would we praise the lifesaving methods of virtual surgery, nor rely on the structural integrity of complex building and machinery designs to keep us safe.
Every now and again it is good to look back and appreciate how far the technology has evolved. For three decades, CGW has covered the vanguard of computer graphics. Its mission then, as it is now, is to report on the important tools, technologies, and events—the milestones—in CG. This year, Computer Graphics World is celebrating its 30th birthday. Three decades may not sound like a long time; but in terms of a computer trade publication, it is a very long time indeed.
To get a better perspective, let’s look at the industry around the time CGW was founded. Scientists discovered solutions for rendering curved surfaces and texture maps. Jim Blinn introduced environmental mapping and, two years later, bump mapping. Meanwhile, Frank Crow developed solutions to the aliasing problem, Jack Bresenham discovered an efficient algorithm to scan convert circles, and Ed Catmull unveiled a curved-surface rendering algorithm. In commercial circles, some of the big names already on the scene were Digital Effects, MAGI, Evans and Sutherland, Triple I, and Robert Abel and Associates.
In the 1980s, the industry’s floodgates opened, and, thankfully, they have yet to close. This is the time when the big names of the industry emerged: Silicon Graphics, Adobe, Autodesk, Pixar, Pacific Data Images, and others. During this period, Wavefront Technologies began offering the first commercially available 3D software package, extending the reach of three-dimensional image creation beyond the labs and into the hands of artists. It was also during this time that CG began appearing in feature films. While TRON was not the first movie to use digital effects, it certainly was one of the hallmarks, with its 15 minutes and 235 scenes of computer-generated imagery.
In the beginning, CGW’s goal was to keep the early pioneers of this new but growing field abreast of the latest discoveries, with the hope that by sharing these innovations, it would further advance the state of the art. It did then, as it does now. Many changes have occurred in the industry during the past 30 years, and CGW has been fortunate to be able to share those milestones with you, our readers. On this, our birthday, we celebrate the industry’s past and present, and look to the future with great anticipation and expectation. No doubt the next 30 years will prove to be equally exciting.