THE BLUE PLATE

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In the 1950’s at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, the birth of modern computing was developing under the watchful eye of John von Neumann and the Los Alamos group.  A latecomer to the project, Nils Barricelli, started performing late computational processes on the machine, nicknamed MANIAC (Mathematical Analyzer, Numerical Integrator, and Computer).  These experiments were later discovered to be early models of synthetic life, the birth of artificial intelligence, Baricelli’s universe on punch cards.

 

 

In 1972, the worlds first fully computer animated motion graphic was rendered by Ed Catmull while in residence at the University of Utah, “A Computer Animated Hand”.  In addition to the hand, this sequence featured a 3d model of an artificial heart valve as well as two figures, who appear to interact with one another.  This is the first documented example of a virtual person.

 

 

In 1909, E.M. Forester published a short story entitled “The Machine Stops”.  An allegory for the future, taking place somewhere in the 2000’s, the story details the relationship between a mother and son, who like all humans, live underground and only communicate via “blue plates” reflective blue panes of glass where their images appear. 

 

 

These three narratives punctuate the story of the modern computer as well as the nature of our relationship to the machine.

 

This body of work incorporated over 200 downloaded and remixed early examples of 3D graphics, reconstructed as an environment navigated by a facsimile of Catmull's hand.  Two faces, animated under the images of the first 3D heads, speak the story of "The Machine Stops". In addition, an installation of early punch cards, archeological relics of machinery, texts about computers and a “random access narrative” bookend the interactive novel, centered around the display of a Commodore PET 2001 Blue Frame Computer which ran a version of "Conways Game of Life" an early AI simulation.

 

Commodore Pet, the first widely marketed personal computer, running a version of "Conway's Game of Life".  A collaboration with Robert Kollar.

An animation using the first two human heads created in a computer, speaking the entire dialouge from E.M. Forester's The Machine Stops

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