Image Objects: An Archaeology of Computer Graphics, 1960–1980

Jacob Gaboury
Film & Media
UC Berkeley

In the last fifty years the field of computer science has undergone a dramatic transformation. What began as an abstract discipline of complex machines built for mathematical calculation has become an ecosystem of graphical devices fueled by the simulation of material objects and processes. Put simply, the computer has transformed from a mathematical tool into a graphical medium. While there is a great deal of work on the use of computer graphics in popular film and visual media in the 1980s and 1990s, the history of the technology as it developed in the two decades prior to this moment remains largely unwritten. Image Objects takes up this task, focusing on the unlikely history of the first research program for computer graphics in the United States, founded in 1965 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Asking what it means to write a material history of a supposedly immaterial practice – visual simulation – the book explores how theories of visibility, memory, and textuality have been inscribed into the infrastructure of computer graphics as both a technical medium and a cultural practice that has come to shape our contemporary media landscape.