The computer is not a visual medium. While today our interactions with computational technologies are almost all mediated by screen interfaces and digital image technologies, visual representation is in no way essential to the theory of computation itself. Likewise, most of us think of computer graphics as a relatively recent invention, enabling the spectacular visual effects and lifelike simulations we see in current films, television shows, and digital games. In fact, computer graphics have been around as long as the modern computer itself, and played a fundamental role in the development of computer science in the second half of the twentieth century. This talk takes up that history. Focusing on the groundbreaking research program at the University of Utah from 1965 to 1980, I argue that while visual representation is not essential to the theory of computation, computer graphics are one of the principal technologies of our historical present, and have reshaped the way we understand, relate with, and engage the material world today.

Dr. Jacob GabouryUniversity of California, Berkeley

Jacob Gaboury is Assistant Professor of Film & Media at the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in the seventy-year history of digital image technologies. His forthcoming book with MIT Press is titled Image Objects: An Archaeology of Computer Graphics (August 2021), and it traces the prehistory of computer graphics through five objects that structure the production of nearly all digital images today. His work has appeared in a range of popular and academic publications, including Grey Room, the Journal of Visual Culture, Camera Obscura, Debates in the Digital Humanities, Rhizome, and Art Papers, and his work has been supported by fellowships from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the International Research Institute for Cultural Techniques and Media Philosophy (IKKM), the Charles Babbage Institute, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Smithsonian Institution.