An Archaeology of Computer Graphics
312 pp., 6 x 9 in, 133 b&w photos, 20 color plates
- Published: August 3, 2021
- Published: August 3, 2021
How computer graphics transformed the computer from a calculating machine into an interactive medium, as seen through the histories of five technical objects.
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 our contemporary culture of computing. In Image Objects, Jacob Gaboury offers a prehistory of computer graphics through an examination of five technical objects—an algorithm, an interface, an object standard, a programming paradigm, and a hardware platform—arguing that computer graphics transformed the computer from a calculating machine into an interactive medium.
Gaboury explores early efforts to produce an algorithmic solution for the calculation of object visibility; considers the history of the computer screen and the random-access memory that first made interactive images possible; examines the standardization of graphical objects through the Utah teapot, the most famous graphical model in the history of the field; reviews the graphical origins of the object-oriented programming paradigm; and, finally, considers the development of the graphics processing unit as the catalyst that enabled an explosion in graphical computing at the end of the twentieth century.
The development of computer graphics, Gaboury argues, signals a change not only in the way we make images but also in the way we mediate our world through the computer—and how we have come to reimagine that world as computational.
“Gaboury's brilliant archaeology of computer graphics explores the ways in which computational media have come to act as sensory prostheses that mediate practice and experience.”
Timothy Lenoir, Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Cinema & Digital Media and Science & Technology Studies at the University of California, Davis
“With Image Objects, Gaboury has established himself as the leading voice among a new generation of visual culture theorists. This is a landmark contribution to the fields of digital culture, media theory, and science and technology studies.”
Bernard Geoghegan, Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Digital Media, King's College London
“Image Objects presents the definitive history of computer graphics, full stop. This is a remarkable work of scholarship, and a genuinely fascinating story—which also offers a more expansive picture of the institutional landscape for early computing.”
Rita Raley, author of Tactical Media
“Digging into the material culture of computer graphics, Jacob Gaboury shows how digital images transfigure the visual and recode the world as a system of interrelating, interacting objects. A fascinating story filled with theoretical twists and dazzling historical insights.”
Colin Milburn, Gary Snyder Chair in Science and the Humanities, University of California, Davis
“A unique interrogation of the contemporary optical regime, structured as it is by black boxes and screens.”