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Incredible Machine: Circuit Simulation, Digital Animation, and ASCII Art from 1968

While wandering through the AT&T Archives Techchannel I came across this neat film from 1968. The general tone of the film is the standard “gee whiz computers are amazing look what they can do” pitch, but some of the specific examples chosen here are pretty neat. The one which really caught my eye is the first example: schematic capture and circuit simulation using a CRT and lightpen. While circuit simulation had been done on computers since the first analog models, this is probably the oldest example I’ve seen of using a computer for graphical schematic capture and output (in this case, a frequency response plot). Even though this is an early example, it’s got a sort of elegance to it — if you look closely you’ll even see it’s got some drag-and-drop functionality.

The sections of the film that follow cover other things like creating animated movies (tell me the ‘graphic artist’ doesn’t look like Dennis Hopper), creating ASCII art (though perhaps not explicitly ASCII) and generating music and speech. There’s a lot to absorb here — definitely worth 15 minutes of your time — so check it out!


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2 Comments

  1. The Bell Labs computer singing “Daisy” is the same one that inspired the scene in 2001, when HAL is slowly getting unplugged.

  2. The sequence starting at 5:55 ("Man and his world") is giving me a severe Lost flashback. And remember, only fools are enslaved by space and time.

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