History of Computer Art
Three-week course taught by Allen Riley at AS220 Media Arts in June 2015
June 11, 18, 25, 6:30-8:30pm
I previously taught a version of this course at The White Page in Minneapolis, MN in May 2014.
This syllabus is partly adapted from Beau Sievers' BHQFU course Irony and Utopia: History of Computer Art
Brief History of Computers
Outline: Industrial organization of computational labor (human computers) > formalization of labor as electronic hardware (ENIAC) > information as product of labor (computer programmers) > information as possibility of labor (cybernetics) > abstraction of information as medium of communication (GUI) > information as simulation of nature > simulation as second nature
Human computers, 1758-1946: industrial organization of computational labor
Pen and paper industrialization of mathematics, a "computing factory"
information as an industrial material
scientist > planner > computer
hierarchy based on other forms of industrialization
ENIAC, 1946: formalization of labor as electronic hardware, informationan as product of labor
electronic numerical integrator and computer
Moore School of Engineering in Maryland via US Army and Ballistics Research Laboratory had 150 human computers
new hierarchy: scientist > engineer > programmer
digital information as an industrial material: the punch card
programs use 1 million punch cards
Cybernetics, 1948: information as possibility of change and growth (i.e. labor)
"Information is information, not matter or energy."
abstraction of computer as a conceptual framework
Cybernetics views all entities as standing in relation to another on the basis of information exchange. Information exchange becomes the condition for growth and change in nature.
"...the human and animal nervous systems... are known to be capable of the work of a computational system."9 This correspondence is viewed as the fundamental makeup of the nervous system, describing the activity of neurons as a binary messaging system.10
Business Machines: IBM and PDP, 1950s-1980s
The Paperwork Explosion, Jim Henson and Raymond Scott, pre-cybernetic division of labor (humans think, computers work)
SAGE: Military application of computers
PDP-1: Common university "mini-computer"
Point-and-Click Interface: abstraction of information as medium of communication
Note: Engelbart's innovation was to shift thinking from computers as automated labor to being part of the "whole system of a human and his augmentation" which he called the H-LAM/T system: humans using language, artifacts, and methods in which they are trained.
NLS (on-Line System), the first point-and-click computer system using a mouse, which resulted from the above research, 1967
Intergalactic Network, 1963
Week 2: Cybernetics and Assemblages, Searching for an Interface
Early Developments in Computer Interfaces
Nam June Paik and Shuya Abe
Robot K-456, remote-controlled electronic assemblage aka robot, 1964.