Ken Knowlton, A Founding Father Of Computer Art And Animation, Dies at 91

After graduation, he enrolled in a 5-year engineering physics plan at Cornell University. In 1953, he received his bachelor’s, and two several years later on he gained his masters in the exact industry. At Cornell, Knowlton first formulated his like for desktops, and he pursued additional research at M.I.T., where by in 1962 he gained a PhD in communications sciences with his thesis “Sentence Parsing with a Self-Arranging Heuristic Software.”

After leaving M.I.T., he began doing the job for AT&T’s Bell Labs, the legendary industrial analysis and scientific development hub credited with an abundance of technological breakthroughs all through the 20th century. In 1963, Knowlton wrote BEFLIX, small for Bell Labs Flicks, between the earliest programming languages formulated for the development of computer system graphics. The resulting pictures ended up generated at a resolution of 252×184.

In 1964, Knowlton and a group of Bell Labs employees like E.E. Zajac, A. Michael Noll, Frank Sinden, and other people, created the brief film A Pc System For the Generation of Animated Motion pictures (under), which spelled out how to use the BEFLIX programming language to make an animated film.

Though shorter lived, and only at any time utilized by Knowlton himself, the BEFLIX language was a precursor to the programming languages that would afterwards adjust the way that filmed entertainment is created. His pioneering do the job laid the necessary groundwork for laptop animation from electronic 2d animation courses like Flash and Toonboom to 3d animation spanning Tron to Thor: Really like and Thunder.

While Knowlton worked on the programming by himself, he favored to collaborate with visible artists for building computer system-generated continue to imagery and films, describing that “on laptop or computer art I have normally lacked the courage to do the job fully by itself.” During the 1960s and ’70s, Knowlton produced all over 20 films in collaboration with filmmakers Stan Vanderbeek and Lillian Schwartz, and these shorts were broadly screened at film festivals, as perfectly as at The Whitney and Museum of Modern-day Art.

UFOs (1971), which Knowlton created with Schwartz, can be seen down below:

Even in these primitive times of laptop or computer art and animation, Knowlton firmly considered that technological innovation could be made use of by artists as a software for particular expression. He outlined his vision in a 1968 speak:

We are further obliged, I assume, to test to extend the use of pcs into the location of extra profound art – that which aids us to enjoy, realize, and increase our humanity. If we are successful in this pursuit, then the laptop or computer will have been beneficial, not only immediately, but it will have served us psychologically to perceive it as a good friend – as an instrument not essentially of regimentation but a single which can substantially help us to expertise and assert our humanity.

In addition to his experiments in pc filmmaking, Knowlton also experimented with continue to images.

Whilst at Bell Labs, he and colleague Leon Harmon designed a 12-foot-extended mosaic of a nude lady making use of dots, letters, figures, and other computer-generated symbols in distinctive shades of gray. The two then hung the piece in the workplace of Bell Labs govt director of communications investigate Edward E. David. While he was reportedly unamused by the prank, the portrait finally uncovered its way into the additional appreciative hands of artist Robert Rauschenberg, who hung it in his loft as section of a job titled “Experiments in Artwork and Technologies.”

Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon’s “Computer Nude (Studies in Perception I)”
Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon’s “Computer Nude (Studies in Perception I)”

The mosaic also featured in a New York Times report and is believed to be the initial full-frontal nude at any time released by the paper. It also showcased in an show at the Museum of Modern Artwork titled “The Equipment as Viewed at the Conclude of the Mechanical Age.”

Knowlton labored at Bell Labs until finally 1982, soon after which he place in stints at SRI Worldwide, Networked Image Sys. & By means of Online video, Digital Gear Corporation, Wang Laboratories, and Netwave/Quickbuy. Along with his progressive get the job done with desktops, Knowlton also served as both of those checking out professor of computer system graphics at UC Santa Cruz in 1971 and distinguished going to professor at New Mexico Point out University in 1980.

Knowlton retired from tech investigate in 2008. In accordance to his web-site, he put in the “final quarter of his lifestyle performing no harm: composing essays and memoirs, and applying his possess personal computer-assisted techniques for planning his artwork, most of which are mosaic portraits.”

Knowlton is survived by his sons Rick, Kenneth, and David brother Fredrick Knowlton and sister Marie Knowlton. He is predeceased by his next wife, Barbara Bean-Knowlton, and two daughters, Melinda and Suzanne.

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