Thoughts on programming and design applications. The tools of this era.
In the beginning of computing we developed programming. Computer imagery developed with the advent of graphical devices hooked into computers and by virtue of their associated low-level instructions, used by programmers, the first computer generated images came to be.
As computer imagery caught people's imagination. Programmers began designing applications that allowed non-programmers to create "computer graphics" for solving visual problems, such as the display of complex data or the layout of a printed page.
I was there at the beginning. As a design student at Michigan State University I wanted to use the computer so badly to create computer imagery that I endured learning programming to: create line printer art, draw designs on XY-plotters and, create animation by filming images off a vector display device. I learned FORTRAN, BASIC long before the Macintosh was created with its GUI, mouse point device and initial page layout software applications. My tenacity paid off; I was the first graphic designer to display "computer generated art" at my MFA show in 1975.
At The Ohio State University I was able to assist Charles Csuri's efforts developing the CGRG program. I worked with his students on "state-of-the-art" computers using "prioritary" software applications to create three-dimensional computer graphics animation. State-of-the-art at the time involved learning the UNIX operating system and the C programming language.
At Northern Illinois University using an IBM PC and Targa board we were able to using programming and low level routines to generate full-color images on the fly to enhance performace art. Also, we were able to acquire a Macintosh and using the C language generate algorithmic art to explore kinetic computer imagery.
I left academe for Pixar, the penultimate computer graphic aesthetic experience. While I had nothing to do with what would become Academy Award Winning Animation, my principle role was a precursor to the brilliance of that organization. As the RenderMan Evangelist I marketed the software that produced the best computer imagery in the world. I used it as well, programming primitive routines and in-house developed application products, to produce collateral imagery to support the marketing of shrink-wrapped products based on that technology.
Since leaving Pixar my programming ability used in combination with graphic application software has continued to serve me. Thanks to the Adobe Corporation and their collection of graphic productivity application many non-programmers are producing world class designs. However, I believe that knowing programming is still an advantage. For example, you can use Flash to produce great interactive widgets but knowing ActionScript gives you greater control.