1962 Sketchpad

I like to know where things begin – I’m fascinated by the origins of what we do today – everything that appears remarkable today has evolved through countless evolutionary steps involving many different industries and skills and are less likely to be the sole ingenuity of people like Jobs – who are more masters of making existing technologies accessible to the masses.

The drawing tools we use on computers – namely Adobe Illustrator, Freehand (now superseded) and Corel Draw and AutoCAD, evolved through computer experiments from the 60s, starting with Ivan Sutherland, who, in 1963, developed the complex program (for its time) ‘Sketchpad’. This 1987 film discusses the amazing abilities of this first piece of drawing software – we may think it appears simple now, but at the time it was very revolutionary and inspired many to produce what we use today.

And the original film:

From Wikipedia:
Sketchpad was the first program ever to utilize a complete graphical user interface, using an x-y point plotter display and the recently invented light pen. The clever way the program organized its geometric data pioneered the use of “objects” and “instances” in computing and pointed forward to object oriented programming. The main idea was to have master drawings which one could instantiate into many duplicates. If the user changed the master drawing, all the instances would change as well. Another major invention in Sketchpad was that it let the user easily constrain geometric properties in the drawing—for instance, the length of a line or the angle between two lines could be fixed. Sketchpad ran on the Lincoln TX-2 (1958) computer at MIT, which had 64k of 36 bit-words. Of the 36 bits available to store each display spot in the display file, 20 gave the coordinates of that spot for the display system and the remaining 16 gave the address of the n-component element responsible for adding that spot to display.


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