Quotulatiousness

January 25, 2013

Even before “The internet is for porn”, mainframe computers were for cheesecake

Filed under: History, Media, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:47

The very first human image displayed on a computer was a pinup girl:

First human image on a computer

During a time when computing power was so scarce that it required a government-defense budget to finance it, a young man used a $238 million military computer, the largest such machine ever built, to render an image of a curvy woman on a glowing cathode ray tube screen. The year was 1956, and the creation was a landmark moment in computer graphics and cultural history that has gone unnoticed until now.

Using equipment designed to guard against the apocalypse, a pin-up girl had been drawn.

She was quite probably the first human likeness to ever appear on a computer screen.

She glowed.

[. . .]

In early 1959, 21-year-old Airman First Class Lawrence A. Tipton snapped the only known photo of this pin-up program in action at Ft. Lee. The photo shows the tube of an SD console displaying the outline of woman with her arms held high, cradling her head while emphasizing her bosom. She reclines awkwardly, her legs splayed apart in an uncomfortable but provocative pose that smacks of mid-century pin-up art.

“One day I decided to take pictures for posterity’s sake,” recalls Tipton, “And those two Polaroids are the only ones that made it out of the building.” The other Polaroid is a self-portrait of Tipton himself sitting in front of the AN/FSQ-7’s Duplex Maintenance Console. “We used the Polaroid cameras to take pictures of anomaly conditions. When the computers would malfunction, you’d take pictures of those main consoles to diagnose the conditions.”

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