A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation

Section 7:
Organizations, conferences, graphics standards, and publications

The IEEE Computer Society is the world's leading organization of computer professionals. Founded in 1946, it is the largest of the 37 societies of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) with nearly 100,000 members.

In 1947, members of the computing community founded a professional organization called the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), to provide professional and educational opportunities for its members. It has grown to approximately 75,000 members from every area of the computing related field.

The American Federation of Information Processing Societies (AFIPS) was established on May 10, 1961, to advance and disseminate knowledge in the field of information science, and to represent member societies on an international level. The federation was an outgrowth of the National Joint Computer Committee, which was established in 1951 to sponsor the Joint Computer Conferences. The founding societies of AFIPS were the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and the Institute of Radio Engineers (the latter two eventually merged into the IEEE, or Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers). One of the main contributions of AFIPS was its sponsorship of the Joint Computer Conference, renamed the National Computer Conference in October 1973. These semi-annual conferences featured technical sessions and exhibits relating to the field of information processing. They were discontinued after 1987 because of the financial condition of the organization.

Click on the images below to view a larger version (when available).






One of the unique components of the ACM organization is the Special Interest Group, or SIG (in the early days they were called Special Interest Committees, or SICs). The individual computing specialty areas are represented in one of these 35 SIGs. Like the umbrella ACM organization, each SIG is governed by a board made up of volunteer members.

In 1967, one of the ACM Board members was Sam Matsa, who started his career as part of the IBM/GM relationship that would result in DAC-1 and the IBM 2250 display. Matsa and Andy Van Dam of Brown University organized a professional development seminar in graphics as part of a larger series of seminars. Matsa convince ACM to sponsor these seminars, which traveled around the country, attracting 40 or 50 people to each. In the graphics seminar, Van Dam taught the hardware side and Matsa taught the software component.

As a result of the interest in the graphics discipline, evidenced by the attendance at these seminars, Matsa and Van Dam convinced ACM that they should recognize a Special Interest Committee in Graphics, and SICGRAPH was born. Matsa was the founding Chairman and Van Dam as Secretary organized the SIC newsletters.

In 1969, the members wanted recognition of the area in the way other computing disciplines were recognized, with elected rather than appointed officers, so a lobbying effort resulted in enough signatures to convince ACM to give the SIC a Special Interest Group designation, and ACM-SIGGRAPH was established. Its first elected chair was Ed Devine. Jon Meads named it SIGGRAPH: the Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in the bylaws, in order to recognize the graphics and the human parts of the equation.

The organization participated in the broader ACM conferences, and published a quarterly newsletter. Interest ran the gamut from simulation and modeling, to text editing and composition, to computer generated art, cartography and mapping, computer aided design and, computer graphics software and hardware.

In 1973, Meads and Bob Schiffman organized the first annual SIGGRAPH conference, which has become one of the compelling aspects of the organization. It was held in Boulder, Colorado in the summer of 1974 as the 1st Annual Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques. Attendance was approximately 600 people. There was no formal proceedings published, rather the papers were included in an obscure journal from Pergammon Press. The next two conferences, at Bowling Green, Ohio and Philadelphia, were only moderately successful. In 1977 the conference was held in a Hyatt in San Jose, and it was a resounding success, leading to decades of successful and important SIGGRAPH conferences. The Proceedings of the Conference remains an accepted scholarly journal for the publication of technical contributions.

Tom DeFanti, who graduated from Ohio State and later served as SIGGRAPH Chair, organized film and video presentations in the early conferences, and in 1979 started publishing them as the SIGGRAPH Video Review. These sessions are now called the Electronic Theatre, part of the Computer Animation Festival, a juried conference event. In 1995, Frank Foster arranged to have this evening of visuals in a formal theatre setting, away from the conference venue, at the famous Shrine Auditorium in LA.

Over the years, Panels and Courses were added, an Art Show became a mainstay, and venues for emerging technologies were provided. Several related conferences have occasionally co-located with SIGGRAPH, and an Education track became part of the overall conference offerings.



This section is based in part on an article in the Siggraph newsletter by Carl Machover.
















The National Computer Graphics Association (NCGA) was founded in 1979 by Joel Orr and Peter Preuss. It evolved from the standardization efforts of SIGGRAPH, and some frustration that the industry was not necessarily being served well by a single entity in the form of SIGGRAPH. It held its first conference in Virginia in 1980, with an expanded equipment exhibition, workshops and tutorials for attendees, and an award program for images and videos (SIGGRAPH chose not to pick any "best of..." until 2003.) For many years, it was important for graphics professionals to attend both conferences, but during the downturn in the 90s, NCGA fell on financial hard times, and is now defunct. Several subgroups of NCGA, such as the CAD Society have survived. It is an occasional informal gathering of professionals--vendors, consultants, and users--who are interested in CAD.









In 1980, the European Computer Graphics Organization, Eurographics was formed. They held their first conference in Geneva that year. There were also organizations in Australia (Ausgraph), Canada, the Netherlands (ISEA - The Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts ), Japan (Nicograph's first conference was held in 1982) and elsewhere. The CGS (Computer Graphics Society) was formally founded in Geneva in 1992. Also, beginning in 1962 the Users of Automatic Information Display Equipment (UAIDE) annual conference was the home for leading edge computer graphics papers until SIGGRAPH came along. During the mid-1980s, Pratt Institute in New York sponsored an annual conference (ComGraf), and there were conferences in Paris (Parigraph), London (ComputerFX), MonteCarlo (Festival International de Television de Monte Carlo), Canada (Graphics Interface), and many other locations in the U.S. and abroad. Besides SIGGRAPH and NCGA, a big conference for CAD professionals was the Design Automation Conference.

(See Machover's UAIDE discussion in the May 2000 SIGGRAPH newsletter)


UAIDE (1969) - Coronado Hotel, San Diego
Left, Bob Hopgood, right Nelson Max
(Source - Carl Machover)

In 1916 the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now IEEE) invited the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (AIMME) and the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) to join in establishing a national body to coordinate standards development and to serve as a clearinghouse for the work of standards developing agencies.

Two years later, the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, originally founded as the American Engineering Standards Committee (AESC) was formed to serve as the national coordinator in the standards development process as well as an impartial organization to approve national consensus standards and halt user confusion on acceptability. The five organizations invited the U.S. Departments of War, Navy and Commerce to join them as founders.
(See http://www.ansi.org)

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was established in 1947 to define "specifications and criteria to be applied consistently in the classification of materials, in the manufacture and supply of products, in testing and analysis, in terminology and in the provision of services." In the field of CG, this can mean applications portability, graphics package portability, host machine independence, device independence, programming language independence, interoperability, and perhaps even programmer and operator portability.

The standardization process in CG started in the mid-60s. A number of software packages helped define "de-facto" standards for the portability of graphics programs. For example, Plot-10 from Tektronix, Cambridge University's GINO-F and Culham Lab's Ghost all provided for certain standardization, but there were problems with each of them. Also, there were european efforts for standardization that were progressing, most notably the German Standards Institute, or DIN, and the Norwegian group which proposed a package called GPGS as a standard. GPGS later became known as IDIGS.

The International Federation of Information Processing, or IFIP, is a non-governmental, non-profit umbrella organization established in 1960 for national societies working in the field of information processing. It established Technical Committees, or TCs (Foundations, Software Theory and Practice, Education, Applications, etc), each of which established Working Groups, or WGs, responsible for different activities within the context of the TC.IFIP WG 5.2, Computer Aided Design , belongs to IFIP  TC 5, Computer Applications in Technology. It was established in 1972, and revised in 1986.

In 1972, ACM established an informal Graphics Standards Planning Committee, or GSPC. They met periodically, and discussed ideas that could possibly result in some kind of standardization. They organized and held a Workshop on Machine Independent Graphics at the National Bureau of Standards in 1974, and formalized themselves as the GSPC, but their activities soon (in the words of Robin Williams) languished for a few years.

In May of 1976, a Workshop on Graphics Standards Methodology was organized by Richard Guedj under the auspices of IFIP WG 5.2 in Seillac, France. Called Seillac I, the workshop was attended by representatives from all over the world who all agreed that it was extremely important to develop a sound methodology, and perhaps a new language conforming to that methodology. The Seillac workshop decided 1) to begin the standardization efforts with the application program interface, or API, 2) to separate the modeling of a scene from the viewing of a scene, and 3) to assure language independence.

During the SIGGRAPH 76 conference, GSPC was reactivated. Bob Dunn and Bert Herzog became the leaders of a group of 25 expert volunteers, divided into groups to deal with short-term issues and longer-term core issues that were identified both from their previous work as well as the Seillac workshop. In particular, they decided that a "State of the Art" group would survey existing software packages and approaches; a "Methodology group would look at a conceptual framework and guidelines; a "Core" group to define the semantics of a standard graphics package; and an "Interface" group that would consider interoperability with other software technologies. The Core recommendations were published in a supplement to the Proceedings of the SIGGRAPH 77 Conference.

ISO also established a working group, ISO WG2, the Graphics Working Group, to study the issues. They met in Bologna in 1978 and considered reports from DIN, the GSPC Core group, and IDIGS. The DIN report was called GKS, or Graphical Kernal System, which unlike Core, only dealt with 2D. They met again in Amsterdam in early 1979, and recommended that GKS and Core come closer together. DIN and GSPC met in Boulder, Colorado to discuss these recommendations.

In June, 1979 the Core work was passed to ANSI, which organized a working group called X3H3 to develop a standard based on Core. X3H3 ultimately recommended a standard called PHIGS. In the meantime, an ISO workshop was held in Budapest in October, 1979 to consider GKS version 5.0, as well as Core and a version of IDIGS. It decided to focus on GKS only. Following discussions at the Eurographics Geneva conference, the proposal for GKS as a two-dimensional standard for Computer Graphics was submitted to ISO. Some think that if the SIGGRAPH Core proposals had been submitted to ISO in the previous year then it is probable that ISO would have considered a two-dimensional standard unnecessary, but the GSPC had neglected to do this. The submission of the GKS proposal to ISO was followed by lengthy discussions with all interested parties and some of the ideas of the Core, especially those relating to forms of text output, were incorporated into GKS before it was published in 1982 as Draft International Standard 7942.

Discussions continued on minor details of 7942, and it has been said that the GSPC were not happy with the emergence of GKS. SIGGRAPH organized a vote of its members to decide whether it or ISO should be the appropriate authority to decide on standards for Graphics in America and the vote fell solidly in favor of ISO. In February 1984, SIGGRAPH published a special issue describing GKS which was sent to all its members, and it became the first published standard for graphics in August, 1985.









GKS defines a basic two-dimensional graphics system with uniform input and output primitives and a uniform interface to and from a GKS metafile for storing and transferring graphics information. It supports a wide range of graphics output devices including such devices as printers, plotters, vector graphics devices, storage tubes, refresh displays, raster displays, and microfilm recorders. As the technical work on GKS came to a close, attention was turned to issues of 3D. Some wanted to extend GKS, while others, most notably the U.S. introduced a new system, called PHIGS. It was agreed at a joint meeting in Canada in 1983 to launch both projects.

PHIGS stands for Programmer's Hierarchical Interactive Graphics System. The PHIGS standard defined a set of functions and data structures to be used by a programmer to manipulate and display 3-D graphical objects. The standard was approved by ANSI as ANSI X3.144-1988, by ISO as ISO 9592-1:1989, and by the Federal government as Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 153.

GKS-3D is a pure super-set of GKS designed to handle 3D graphics in a compatible way. That is to say, a 2D application written to the GKS standard is guaranteed to run in a GKS-3D environment without change. However, apart from the usual GKS functions, GKS-3D provides additional ones to handle 3D primitives, 3D input, and 3D viewing. It was standardized as ISO 8806-1 in 1988.

Discussions on the limitations of PHIGS in the area of rendering (output primitives) resulted in the recommendation and adoption of PHIGS+ in 1989.



Work on a Metafile standard for the storage and transfer of picture description information was approved in 1983, and ISO approved the Computer Graphics Metafile (CGM) standard in 1987 as ISO 8632. This standard defines the format of a file that describes one or more two-dimensional images. A CGM metafile is not a picture – it only contains a description of the picture. In order to see the picture, the information in the file must be translated by another program for a specific output device. Pictures are described as a collection of elements of different kinds, representing things like primitives, attributes, and control information.





CAD (Computer-Aided Design) systems had been developing their systems well before the standards activities took place. They were concerned with a metafile for transferring these files between CAD systems. Products may be designed as either a two-dimensional, three-view drawing layout, or as a full three-dimensional model with associated drawing views and dimensions using a CAD system. The Initial Graphics Exchange Specifications, or IGES format serves as a neutral data format to transfer the design to a dissimilar system. Translators, developed to the IGES Standard, are used to export a design into an IGES file for exchange and for importing the IGES file into the destination system.

"In 1979 events took place that catalyzed the CAD vendor community to create the first national standard for CAD data exchange. Mechanical CAD systems were less than ten years old, and there were only a handful of products with any significant market penetration. Even at this early stage, users were overwhelmed by the inability to share data among these tools and with their own internally-developed databases. Frustration was evident at a fateful two-day Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) meeting in the Fall of 1979. On the first day, an attendee from General Electric (GE) challenged a panel of CAD vendors, that included Computervision, Applicon, and Gerber, to work together to enable a common neutral exchange mechanism.

The panel reported on the second day, and the wheels were set in motion to create an 'IGES.' Once the panel admitted that a common translation mechanism was possible, it was impossible to stop the momentum of the customer's enthusiasm and expectations. Applicon and ComputerVision agreed to open their internal databases, GE offered its neutral database, and Boeing offered the structure of its Computer Integrated Information Network (CIIN) database. Both GE and Boeing contributed their existing translators. A core team was formed that included representatives from NBS, Boeing, and GE. Team members had worked closely with each of the vendors on internal integration projects. This prior experience built the expertise and trust needed to craft a solution in a very short time, and neither vendor felt it gave an unfair advantage to the other.

Soon after, an open meeting was held at the National Academy of Sciences on October 10, 1979. Approximately 200 people attended to herald the birth of IGES."
Quoted from B. Goldstein, S. Kemmerer, C. Parks, "A Brief History of Early Product Data Exchange Standards," NISTIR 6221, September 1998.

See http://www.nist.gov/iges/


The mid-1980s saw the use of CAD playing a more significant role in aircraft design. Boeing decided to design its 777 aircraft totally on the computer, using CATIA. In Europe, a consortium of manufacturers (Aerospatiale(France), British Aerospace, CASA (Spain) and MBB (West Germany)) began the design of the Airbus 320 totally using CAD. The differing systems used by these companies demanded a standard for data interchange, and the SET (Standard D'Exchange et De Transfert) standard was developed. It was seen by many to be the main challenge to the IGES stanard evolving in the U.S.  SET began development in 1983 at Aerospatiale as a response to the halting implementation of the IGES standard, and because it was developed in one company, its proponents argued that it was faster and more dependable. Others, including U.S. standards officials, saw the emergence of two competitive standards as an impediment to the acceptance  of a standard, because of problems of interpretation and agreement among standards makers.



Other standards which have been adopted (some are not official standards, but rather can be considered industry standards) include OpenGL (1992) from SGI, Java-2D and Java-3D from Sun, DirectX (1995) from Microsoft, X-windows (developed at MIT in the late 1980s ), PEX (PHIGS extension to X), PostScript, VRML, NTSC (PAL and SECAM), D1 (D2, D3, D5) and many more.





Although it is beyond the scope of this Section to accurately define file formats for graphics, it is worth noting that several have become de facto standards, and several more have come out of actual standards working groups and have either been designated as standards, or are being considered. For example, JPEG is an adopted standard (ISO WG 10, 1991) for encoding and compressing continuous tone raster still images. It was proposed by the Joint Photographics Expert Group, hence its name. Likewise, MPEG (ISO WG11, 1991) is a standard for encoding video and audio sequences, from the Moving Picture Experts Group. Below is a list of some more popular formats:

BMP (BitMaP) Microsoft   raster; color independence
CCITT Fax CCITT   document transmission
DXF (Drawing eXchange File) Autodesk, Inc.   interchange AutoCAD files
EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) Adobe   describes a single picture that can be included in a PostScript file
GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) Compuserve   uses LZW compression for transmission over telephone lines; has become a Web standard
JFIF C-Cube Microsystems   Portable JPEG
PICT (PICTure data) Apple   optimized for Apple QuickDraw
QuickTime Apple   storage and retrieval of compressed time-based data
RLE (Run Length Encoding) Utah   device independent raster
TIFF (Tag Image File Format) Aldus   raster scanned data format




Over the years since the graphics discipline began there have been a number of graphics journals and publications, most of which are still being published. They include:

U.S. Journals

  • ACM Transactions on Graphics (TOG)
  • Communications of the ACM (CACM)
  • Computer Graphics (Proceedings of the SIGGRAPH Conference)
  • Journal of the ACM (JACM)
  • ACM Computing Surveys (defunct)
  • IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications (CG&A)
  • IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
  • IEEE Spectrum
  • Graphical Models and Image Processing
  • Computer Graphics and Image Processing
  • Computer Graphics, Vision, and Image Processing (formerly CGIP)
  • International Journal of Computational Geometry and Applications
  • journal of graphics tools
  • Computer Graphics World (CGW)
  • Graphical Models (formerly Graphical Models and Image Processing)
  • High Performance Computer Graphics, Multimedia and Visualization
  • IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (TVCG)
  • Proceedings of the National Computer Conference (defunct)
  • Proceedings of the Fall Joint Computer Conference (defunct)
  • Proceedings of the Spring Joint Computer Conference (defunct)
  • AFIPS (American Federation of Information Processing Societies) (defunct)
  • IBM Systems Journal
  • UAIDE (Users of Automatic Inform. Display Equipment) (defunct)

European Journals

  • The Visual Computer
  • Computer-Aided Design
  • Computer Aided Geometric Design
  • International Journal of Shape Modeling
  • Computers & Graphics
  • Computer Graphics Forum, editors
  • The Journal of Visualization and Computer Animation
  • Computational Geometry
  • Machine Graphics and Vision
  • IFIPS (International Federation of Information Processing Societies) (defunct)

Also, popular publications like Scientific American, Byte Magazine, Computer Pictures, Datamation and others have also published graphics articles. Esoteric journals in related areas (Journal of Approximation, Applied Mathematics, SAE, ...) and proceedings of small conferences were publishing venues for graphics researchers. Several publishers produced newsletters for the industry, including the S. Klein Newsletter, the Roncerelli Report and Pixel News, Joel Orr's Computer Graphics Newsletter (which evolved into Computer Graphics World Magazine), the SIGGRAPH newsletter, and others.

Computer Graphics related books

  • R. Bartels, J. Beatty, & B. Barsky, An Introduction to Splines for Use in Computer Graphics and Geometric Modeling, Morgan Kaufmann Pub., 1987.
  • M. de Berg, M. van Kreveld, M. Overmars, & O. Schwarzkopf, Computational Geometry - Algorithms and Applications, Springer Verlag, 1997.
  • Wolfgang Boehm & Hartmut Prautzsch, Geometric Concepts for Geometric Design, A. K. Peters Pub., 1993.
  • J.-D. Boissonnat & M. Yvinec, Algorithmic Geometry, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Michael Cohen & John Wallace, Radiosity and Realistic Image Synthesis, Academic Press, 1993.
  • Gerald Farin, Curves and Surfaces for Computer Aided Geometric Design, 4th edition, Academic Press, 1996.
  • Gerald Farin, NURB Curves and Surfaces, A. K. Peters Pub., 1995.
  • E. Fiume, Mathematical Foundations for Computer Graphics, Academic Press, 1989.
  • J. Foley, A. van Dam, S. Feiner, & J. Hughes, Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, 2nd edition, Addison-Wesley, 1996.
  • Andrew Glassner (Ed.), Graphics Gems, Academic Press, 1990.
  • S. Harrington, Computer Graphics, A Programming Approach, McGraw-Hill, 1987.
  • Andreas Hartwig, Algebraic 3-D Modeling, A. K. Peters Pub., 1996.
  • D. Hearn & M. Baker, Computer Graphics, Prentice-Hall, 1986.
  • F. Hill, Computer Graphics Using Open GL, 2nd edition, Prentice-Hall, 2000.
  • C. Hoffmann, Geometric and Solid Modeling: An Introduction, Morgan Kaufmann Pub., 1989.
  • S. Hoggar, Mathematics for Computer Graphics, Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  • Josef Hoschek & Dieter Lasser, Fundamentals of Computer Aided Geometric Design, A. K. Peters Pub., 1993.
  • . Peter Lancaster & Kestutis Salkauskas, Curve and Surface Fitting: An Introduction, Academic Press, 1986.
  • T. Lyche & L. Schumaker (Eds.), Mathematical Methods in Computer Aided Geometric Design - II, Academic Press, 1992.
  • Charles Micchelli, Mathematical Aspects of Geometric Modelling, SIAM Pub., 1995.
  • Michael Mortenson, Geometric Modeling, John Wiley, 1985.
  • William Newman & Robert Sproull, Principles of Interactive Computer Graphics, 2nd edition, McGraw-Hill, 1979 (1st Edition - 1973).
  • Joseph O'Rourke, Computational Geometry in C, 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Clifford Pickover, Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty, St. Martin's Press, 1990.
  • F. Preparata & M. Shamos, Computational Geometry - An Introduction, Springer-Verlag, 1988.
  • D. Rogers & J. Adams, Mathematical Elements for Computer Graphics, McGraw-Hill, 1976.
  • F. Sillion & Claude Puech, Radiosity & Global Illumination, Morgan-Kaufmann Pub., 1994.
  • Eric Stollnitz, Tony DeRose, & David Salesin, Wavelets for Computer Graphics, Morgan-Kaufmann Pub., 1996.
  • A. Watt, 3-Dimensional Computer Graphics, Addison-Wesley, 1990.
  • A. Glassner, Principles of Digital Image Synthesis, vol. 1&2, Morgan Kaufman, 1995
  • J. Blinn, Jim Blinn's Corner: A Trip Down the Graphics Pipeline, Morgan Kaufman, 1996
  • J. Blinn, Jim Blinn's Corner: Dirty Pixels, Morgan Kaufman, 1998
  • R. Fosner, OpenGL Programming for Windows95 and NT, Addison Wesley, 1998
  • D. S. Ebert et al, Texturing and Modeling, 2nd edition, Academic Press1998.
    Computer Vision and Image Processing
  • D. Forsyth and J. Ponce, Computer Vision: A Modern Approach, Prentice Hall Inc., 2003
  • V. Nalwa, A Guided Tour of Computer Vision, Addison Wesley, 1993
  • E. R. Davies, Machine Vision: Theory, Algorithms, Practicalities, Academic Press, 1997
  • S. E. Umbaugh, Computer Vision and Image Processing: A Practical Approach using
    CVIPtools, Prentice Hall, 1998
  • R. Jain et al, Machine Vision, McGraw-Hill, 1997
  • R. Haralick and L. Shapiro, Computer and Robot Vision, Addison Wesley, 1992
  • B. K. P. Horn, Robot Vision, MIT Press, 1985
  • D. Ballard and C. Brown, Computer Vision, Prentice Hall, 1982
  • G. Wolberg, Digital Image Warping, IEEE Computer Society Press, 1990
  • High Resolution Computer Graphics using Pascal/C, by Ian O. Angell and Gareth Griffith (John Wiley & Sons, 1988).
  • Computer Graphics (C Version), by Donald Hearn and M. Pauline Baker (Prentice Hall, 1997).
  • Advanced Animation and Rendering Techniques, Theory and Practice, by Alan Watt and Mark Watt (ACM Press/Addison-Wesley, 1992).



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