computer graphics in the 1950s

Jules Richardson jules.richardson99 at
Thu Oct 16 09:55:01 CDT 2008

Joachim Thiemann wrote:
>> On Wed, 15 Oct 2008, Richard wrote:
>>> What was the first machine to have some sort of graphical display (most
>>> likely oscilloscope style) driven by a computer?
> Actually, shouldn't the Jacquard Loom count?


Ahh, the minefield of "what was the first..." questions :-)

In the electronic arena, the Manchester machine (Mk.1) had a visual display of 
what was going on inside the Williams Tubes, and I believe that system 
pre-dated Whirlwind by a few years (essentially completed in 1948 vs. 1951?) 
- however what I'm not sure of is whether the visual display was there from 
day one, or if it was added later as a debugging aid...

Furthermore, what's a "graphical display", anyway? Most people seem to make 
the distinction between graphics and text-mode terminals - so maybe early CRTs 
etc. that only display machine state or rudimentary characters don't count? 
Perhaps the first graphical display is one that can render some form of 
graphics primitives (lines, arcs etc.) direct from software using a bitmapped 
or vector display?



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