To many people in their 20’s or younger, one of the standards they use judging a good video game, animated movie, or even live action movies that have unreal or seemingly impossible images intertwined is the accuracy, vividness and believability of the computer graphics used. Less than 40 years ago, these types of graphics weren’t even dreamed about. Computer processing was still in its youth, and prior to the mid-1980’s it was almost unheard of for individuals to have a “home” computer. Computers had been around for a couple of decades previous, but even the thought of people even possibly owning a home computer didn’t become practical until the mid 1960’s to mid 1970’s. Personally, I didn’t see an actual computer until high school in the early 1980’s. What I remember from that experience definitely wasn’t the realism of the computer’s graphics.
The first computer I actually saw had a monochrome (green) screen and had a cassette tape drive for memory. I also remember that in a programming class, the students were trying to create the image of a little tank, and make it move. Around this same timeframe, the video games “Space Invaders” and “Asteroids” were cutting edge, but the difficulty for high school students “programming” anything was almost unheard of. As time went on, I learned quite a bit more about computers, although I probably still do not possess the knowledge that many of today’s high school students take for granted. Today’s computer graphics have remarkable history.
Oscilloscopes, used by the U.S. military were used to reproduce images representing aircraft and surface (naval) vessels. The military found value in this technology and invested in further development. As a result of this development, researchers found other applications that computer graphics could potentially influence. Eventually those early days of the oscilloscopes evolved into monochrome cathode ray tubes, which would eventually find small use in early home computers. Increased potential for home computers and the ability for a game to be programmed into a “home” computer were realized in 1975.
In 1974, Richard, Eric, and Scott Adams designed one of the first, if not the first, 16-bit home computer, and in 1975, Scott Adams wrote what may be considered the first “home” video graphics game. We have come so far in such a relatively short period of time; we have moved from static stars, Klingons represented by a “C”, and the Enterprise represented by an “E”, to today’s computer graphics that can be embedded into a movie scene where live actors seem to interact with images created by a computer. I still wonder where all this technology will go.