They were a group of young, scrappy, but brilliant University of Utah computer science students and professors who changed the world.
Ed Catmull. John Warnock. Jim Clark. Alan Kay. Ivan Sutherland. Martin Newell. They are just a handful of the luminaries in the late 1960s and 1970s who revolutionized computer graphics by inventing technologies that have aided and shaped countless industries today.
For the first time ever, these and other legends of that time will be reuniting on the U campus Thursday, March 23, and Friday, March 24, to commemorate their roles as 3-D graphics pioneers and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the U’s Kahlert School of Computing.
This once-in-a-lifetime two-day event, which is open to the public, will be held in the ballroom of the University of Utah’s Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House, 155 S. Central Campus Drive, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Click here for event information and to RSVP. Events on both days will also be livestreamed on the University of Utah’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/@universityofutah/streams.
The “Camelot Era”
Led by then computer science professor Ivan Sutherland and David Evans, the University of Utah’s first computer science research program in graphics and interactive computing, these trailblazing graduate students researched and developed ground-breaking innovations in 3-D objects and computer animation decades before “Toy Story.” Many have later called this nascent period at the U the “Camelot Era.”
From Martin Newell’s first 3-D rendering of a ceramic teapot (famously known as the “Utah Teapot”) and Ivan Sutherland’s 3-D model of his old Volkswagen Beetle, to Ed Catmull’s 3D animation of his own hand, these early advances in computer modeling would ignite a revolution that would lead to computer simulations, medical imaging, computer molecular graphics, computer-animated movies, video games and more.
As author Robert Rivlin wrote in his The Algorithmic Image: Graphic Visions of the Computer Age: “Almost every influential person in the modern computer-graphics community either passed through the University of Utah or came into contact with it in some way.”
“The late David Evans was a true visionary to create a center of excellence in computer graphics and interactive computing in the mid 1960s,” said Kahlert School of Computing Director Mary Hall. “Early on, the atmosphere for creative innovation attracted the extraordinarily talented faculty, including Ivan Sutherland and Burroughs computer architect Bob Barton, and success followed from there.”
On Thursday, March 23, beginning at 10 a.m. MDT, the Kahlert School of Computing will be celebrating its 50thanniversary with a day-long series of talks and panel discussions about the past, present, and future of one of the country’s top-ranked computer science departments. Speakers will include Sutherland and Telle Whitney, co-founder of Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and Former CEO of the Anita Borg Institute.
The main event, hosted by the John and Marcia Price College of Engineering and IEEE, begins Friday, March 24 MDT, at 10 a.m. Catmull (co-founder of Pixar Animation), Warnock (co-founder of Adobe), Kay (Xerox PARC), Sutherland, Clark (founder of Netscape and Silicon Graphics) and other legendary researchers including Martin Newell, Jim Blinn, Henry Fuchs and Henri Gouraud will speak and participate in panel discussions about their beginnings at the U.
The morning session will conclude with the presentation of a bronze IEEE Milestone plaque to the University of Utah for its contributions to the development of computer graphics. The plaque will be installed on a granite pedestal on the south lawn of the Merrill Engineering Building. IEEE, the world’s largest professional technical organization, will present the plaque to John and Marcia Price College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown and Kahlert School of Computing Director Mary Hall.
In the afternoon, beginning at 1:45 p.m. MDT, the College of Engineering will host a symposium in which these same graphics luminaries will give longer talks on their pioneering work.
“People interested in computing would love to hear from any one of these visionaries who launched the computer graphics revolution, but in this event, we will hear from a dozen of them!” Brown said. “It will be amazing!”
List of Speakers
James Blinn, Ph.D., 1978 — Created specular lighting models, bump mapping and environment mapping for surface textures in graphical images.
Ed Catmull, Ph.D., 1974 — Pioneer in computer animation who co-developed RenderMan rendering software. Co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and winner of five Academy Awards.
Jim Clark, Ph.D., 1974 — Rebuilt the head-mounted display and 3-D wand to see and interact with 3-D graphic spaces. Founder of Netscape and Silicon Graphics.
Henry Fuchs, Ph.D., 1975 — Innovator in high-performance graphics hardware, 3-D medical imaging and head-mounted display and virtual environments.
Henri Gouraud, Ph.D., 1971 — Created the Gouraud shading method for polygon smoothing—a simple rendering method that dramatically improved the appearance of 3-D objects.
Alan Kay, Ph.D., 1969 — Envisioned the windowing graphical user interface at Xerox PARC, which led to the design of Apple MacIntosh and Windows computers.
Martin Newell, Ph.D., 1975 — Developed procedural modeling for 3-D object rendering.
Co-developed the Painter’s algorithm for surface rendering.
Rodney Rougelot — Former president and chief executive officer of Salt Lake City-based Evans & Sutherland, which then developed military and aviation simulators with 3-D graphics.
Robert A. Schumaker — An engineer with Evans & Sutherland who conceived a new architecture for rendering complex, high-quality 3-D images for its flight simulators.
Alvy Ray Smith — Co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios. First Director of Computer Graphics for George Lucas’ Lucasfilm.
Ivan Sutherland, U Computer Science Professor, 1968-1974 — Inventor of Sketchpad, the first interactive graphics program with geometric constraints. Co-founded Evans & Sutherland with David Evans.
John Warnock, Ph.D., 1969 — Developed the Warnock recursive subdivision algorithm for hidden surface elimination. Co-founder of Adobe, which developed the Postscript language for desktop publishing and is now one of the largest software brands in the world.