a website collaboration between Science Service and the Smithsonian Institution


a selection of the images exhibited at the International Center of Photography and the National Museum of American History 

From the late 1920's, Science Service news syndicate sent out thousands of photographs showing the activities of scientists. This virtual exhibit highlights some of these photographs.

computer generated print out


CD 2055077 E&MP8.002

Computer Art

June 29, 1968

There isnít a curved line in this 23-point polygon. Utilizing the step and repeat feature, BMAPS completed this figure in 15 minutes. It would take most draftsmen six hours. 


Traditional? Surrealism? Avant garde?

For lack of a better word, it's called computer/plotter art, a little known but increasingly important art form which was demonstrated at an informal showing held at the New York room of the Statler Hilton, Los Angeles.

Around the walls were hung approximately a dozen framed drawings in color, black and white, both original drawings and reproductions of masterpieces, the products of a collaboration between computers, a California Computer Products, Inc., Plotter, and, of course, human beings.

The showing was held in conjunction with the announcement by CalComp that it is sponsoring an international "computer/plotter art" competition by offering scholarships of $5000, $3000 and $2000 to accredited colleges or universities named by winners, plus cash awards of $500, $300, and $200 with additional awards of $50 each to 50 runners-up.

Judging the contest, which will end on November 1, are Anthony La Rotonada, art director of Parade Magazine, Arnold C. Holywell, assistant art director of Time-Life Books, and Peter Fingestine, chairman of the Pace College (New York City) art galleries and museums throughout the country.

In each case the pictures exhibited at the showing were the product of countless mathematical computations fed into computers and then placed on tape which was run through a CalComp Plotter and created visually into a work of art.

Among the drawings exhibited were "The Fisherman", "the Snail", "Humming Bird", and others.

Although angles and curves are shown in the drawings they are actually straight lines.

Computer/plotter art has been hitherto little known except within the technical world. Increasing refinements, however, have produced beautiful pictures, so much so that the drawings, both originals and reproductions, are now being sought by collectors.

The CalComp Plotter, of course, is engaged in more materialistic pursuits such as generating garment patterns of various sizes from the designer's original pattern at a fraction of the time formerly required, producing contour maps for oil exploration, and a variety of other uses applicable to the industry.

"But in doing these we thought we ought to recognize aesthetic values, too," said James Pyle, assistant to the President at CalComp. "That's why we're sponsoring this art contest."

Pyle is convinced that computer/plotter art will be accepted as a recognized art form, "if only because it gives a humanizing aura to machinery."

He is certain of one thing and that is that computers will never spontaneously generate a picture.

"First, someone has got to have an idea and that someone is always going to be a human being," he says.

Information on the awards contest and entries can be obtained by writing to California Computer Products, Inc., 305 North Muller Street, Anaheim, California. -- by Paul Snell, Hill and Knowlton, Inc., California

Original Caption by Science Service

Next Page

National Museum of American History


Search - Site Map - Subjects to Choose From - Numbering Format

Credits - Copyright - Comments