Aspects of the history of Electronic Art

In which I discuss many of the technologies and conceptual constructs upon which contemporary electronic art is based.


Stephen Jones
Published by Stephen Jones and Associates P/L
Sydney, NSW.

The production of art and images, music and text, interactive performance and installation using contemporary computing technologies; flat-screen or CRT video monitors, complex operating systems, networks, digital signal processing, etc, etc, though intensely modern, have surprisingly deep roots in Western culture and technological development. Some of them, particularly the number systems and technologies of image making, even go back into the ancient cultures of China, India and the Arab world.


Incunabula of Computing and Computer Graphics
On the technological and creative background of contemporary computing and computer graphics.

The Electric Telegraph
In which I discuss the beginnings of data transmission.

Facsimile and the Transmission of Images
In which I discuss the production and transmission of images by electro-mechanical means.

Calculating Machines
Here I discuss Mechanical Calculating Machines.

Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine
On the first Computing Machine.

The Cathode Ray Tube
On the development of an electronic display device that led to television.

Electronic Imaging begins
On the Television and and CRT display in electronic imaging.

The first electronic Digital Computers
On the British developments drawn from WWII decryption work by Turing.
Colossus and the Manchester “Baby”.

Australia’s first Computers – CSIRAC
The CSIRO’s computer designed by Trevor Pearcey and commissioned in 1951.

Australia’s first Computers – SILLIAC
Built in the Physics Department, University of Sydney

The beginnings of Computer Graphics in Australia
On the use of printers and plotters to produce computer graphics

Data Visualisation and Computer Graphics
The next stage in the development of computer graphics

Computer art and the PDP-8
Doug Richardson and the first Artist’s computer graphics system


3 thoughts on “Synthetics

  1. Sorry Stephen you unfortunately have two different headings linking to same thing. “Australia’s first Computers – CSIRAC” links to a file australias-first-computers that talks about CSIRAC. But the next link “Australia’s first Computers – SILLIAC” points the same file as australias-first-computers talking about CSIRAC not SILLIAC.


  2. G’day Stephen.
    No detraction from your fine work, rather a little more niggling me from my CG & AI background (that is so arcane I will not at all be surprise if you ignore). Really enjoyed “The Electric Telegraph” section easily the clearest explanation of intertwined development paths thence various implementations of national telegraph systems.
    However I stumbled at the 2nd last paragraph’s opening “All digital information used in modern day computers and data networks is represented in binary numbers”. Absolutely true IF ‘digital information’ is defined in terms of ‘binary encoding’. But what happens in/at the interfaces of the strictly binary digital commercial mainstream computing machine with the analogue world (be that pressure gauges, AM radio, live audio input, or multichannel fibre-optics networks)?. Analogue computing was once a hot research topic before the ascendancy of commercial digital computers. Are for instance is the research into quantum computers purely binary-digital simulations, or are such machine in some-aspects beyond being binary &/or digital. The Japanese 5th Generation computing investigations (of 1990s, that died when the money lost interest) were built around ternary states. Transistors interrupting null up-to minimal signals as OFF, strong high signal as ON , relegating significant/noticeable but weak signals to the third option UNKNOWN, INDETERMINATE, OTHER.


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