Some of the key events and developments that have advanced the computer graphics field are listed below. Students of data and information visualization would be well served by gaining a better understanding of the history of this field.

The 1960s:

  • The term computer graphics term coined by William Fetter, Boeing (1960).
  • First computer-animated film (Two-Gyro Gravity-Gradient Attitude Control System, by Edward Zajak, Bell Labs) (1961).
  • First video game (Spacewar) developed by Steve Russell at MIT (1961).
  • Sketchpad, by Ivan Sutherland, MIT – first extensive interactive drawing program (1963).
  • First computer model of a human figure, by William Fetter, Boeing, for use in the study of cockpit design (1964).
  • First computer animation language (BEFLIX), by Ken Knowlton, Bell Labs (1965).
  • Jack Bresenham develops efficient algorithm to scan convert lines (1965).
  • First computer-generated art show, Stuttgart (1965).
  • Ivan Sutherland creates first head-mounted display (1966).
  • Ralph Baer develops first home video game (Odyssey) that allowed users to move points around a screen (1966).
  • Scan-line hidden surface removal algorithm developed by Wylie, Romney, Evans, and Erdahl (1967).
  • Jacques Bertin’s Semiologie Graphique is published (1967).
  • Marching Cubes algorithm published by Lorensen and Cline (1967).
  • Ray tracing invented by Appel (1968).
  • First frame buffer built (three bits), at Bell Labs (1969).
  • Area subdivision hidden surface removal algorithm developed by Warnock (1969).

The 1970s:

  • Intensity interpolated shading developed by Gouraud (1971).
  • Goldstein and Nagel perform first ray tracing using Boolean set operations (the basis of constructive solid geometry) (1971).
  • First 8-bit frame buffer (with color map)  built by Richard Shoup, Xerox PARC (1972).  Evans and Sutherland started marketing frame buffers in 1973–74, with first ones sold to NYIT.
  • Depth-sorting hidden surface removal algorithm developed by Newell, Newell, and Sancha (1972).
  • Westworld debuts – first significant entertainment film that employed computer animation (1973).
  • Herman Chernoff introduces the use of cartoon faces to convey multivariate data (1973).
  • Ed Catmull pioneers texture mapping on curved surfaces (1974).
  • Sutherland and Hodgman develop a polygon clipping algorithm (1974).
  • PRIM-9, the first interactive visualization system for visual data analysis, is presented by Fishkiller, Friedman, and Tukey (1974).
  • Phong Bui-Tuong develops the specular illumination model and normal interpolation shading (1975).
  • Scatterplot Matrix introduced by John Hartigan (1975).
  • Jim Blinn introduces environmental mapping (1976).
  • Frank Crow develops solutions to the aliasing problem (1977).
  • Jack Bresenham develops an efficient algorithm to scan convert circles (1977).
  • Jim Blinn introduces bump mapping (1978).
  • Cyrus and Beck develop a parametric line clipping algorithm (1978).
  • Linked brushing invented by Carol Newton (1978).
  • First synthesis of rendering transparent surfaces, by Kay and Greenberg (1979).
  • Herman and Liu demonstrate volume rendering on tomographic data (1979).

The 1980s:

  • Turner Whitted creates a general ray tracing paradigm that incorporates reflection, refraction, antialiasing, and shadows (1980).
  • Fisheye lens developed by George Furnas (1981).
  • TRON released by Disney films, containing 15 minutes and 235 scenes of computer-generated images.  Companies involved were MAGI, Triple I, Digital Effects, and Robert Abel and Associates (1982).
  • Octrees introduced as a mechanism for geometric modeling by Meager (1982).
  • Silicon Graphics is founded by James Clark (1982).
  • James Blinn wins first SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award (1983).
  • Particle systems introduced by William Reeves (1983).
  • Radiosity introduced by Goral, Torrance, Greenberg, and Battaile (1984).
  • Liang and Barsky develop an efficient clipping algorithm for rectilinear clipping regions (1984).
  • Grand Tour for exploring multivariate data invented by Daniel Asimov (1985).
  • Parallel Coordinates introduced by Al Inselberg (1985).
  • Pixar is bought from Lucasfilm by Steve Jobs (1986).
  • Marching Cubes algorithm published by Lorensen and Cline (1987).
  • Tin Toy wins Academy Award for best animated short film (1989).

The 1990s:

  • First IEEE Visualization Conference (1990).
  • Hanrahan and Lawson introduce Renderman (1990).
  • Treemaps introduced by Ben Shneiderman (1991).
  • IBM releases Visualization Data Explorer, later to become OpenDX (1991).
  • Advanced Visual Systems releases AVS (1991).
  • Silicon Graphics, Inc., release the OpenGL specifications (1992).
  • First CAVE virtual reality environment presented at SIGGRAPH by the University of Illinois (1992).
  • Doom and Myst released (1993).
  • Table Lens introduced by Ramesh Rao and Stuart Card (1994).
  • XmdvTool released to the public domain (1994).
  • Keim introduces pixel-oriented techniques in VisDB (1994).
  • First Information Visualization Conference  (1995).
  • Buena Vista Pictures releases Toy Story, the first full length, computer generated feature film (1995).
  • First generation GPUs released – ATI Rage, Nvidia TNT2, and 3Dfx Voodoo3 (1996).
  • Quake released (1996).
  • Founding of Spotfire, Inc. (1996); acquired by TIBCO in 2007.
  • Second generation GPUs released—NVidia GeForce 256, ATI Radeon 7500, and S3 Savage3D (1998).
  • Alias Maya released (1998).
  • Pixar’s Geri’s Game wins Academy Award for animated short film (1998).
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is released, containing 68 digital characters (including Jar Jar Binks) (1999).

The 2000s:

  • Third generation GPUs released – Nvidia GeForce 256, ATI Radeon 8500, and Microsoft Xbox (2001).
  • Fourth generation GPUs released – Nvidia GeForce FX and ATI Radeon 9700 (2003).
  • Founding of Tableau Software, Inc. (2003).
  • Thomas and Cook publish Illuminating the Path: Research and Development Agenda Visual Analytics (2005).
  • First Visual Analytics Science and Technology Symposium (2006).
Black = in the book
Grey = additional material

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