While recently watching the old Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy movie "Desk Set" it occurred to me that it wasn't so long ago that we thought of computers as huge, massive, bulky creations with all kinds of spinning tapes, fancy dials and bobbing needles.
And yet, a mere 30 years after that film, we have accepted the modern, more streamlined computers that exist today into our places of work, the stores in which we shop - even our homes.If computers aren't quite as common as typewriters they soon will be. And even homes that don't have desktop keyboards often have video games.
Needless to say, the rise of the computer as a commonly accepted part of our lives has been amazingly rapid. And, in case you didn't know, Utah was in on the ground floor of that phenomenon.
So, as of Friday, an enthralling, rather amazing walk-through history of computer graphics, and to some degree the computer itself, with special emphasis on the Utah connection, will be on display in the Salt Lake Art Center's main gallery, 20 S. West Temple, presented by the Utah Media Arts Center and the Salt Lake Art Center.
"An Elegant Merging" is a multimedia show curated by Kenvin Lyman, a former Salt Lake resident who is now professor of computer graphics at the Kansas City Art Institute. In addition to more than 70 flat pieces of computer art, there will be 10 video samples and other multimedia presentations.
The format is unique in that displays are set up in a pattern representing that greatest of all computers, the human brain. The show sets up right-brain/left-brain accomplishments, allowing the general public to walk through them.
The Utah connection is mainly from the incredible achievements of Evans & Sutherland as it has advanced the technology since the company was established in 1968. But almost all major developments in computer graphics originated or were significantly enhanced at the University of Utah in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"An Elegant Merging" will include flat works by Evans & Sutherland, Jim Blinn, Ed Catmull and Richard Taylor, as well as video clips from Blinn's work at JPL, Pixar and his early student work at the U., segments from a 1960s multimedia presentation - "Rainbow Jam" - and state-of-the-art simulation technology from Evans & Sutherland.
You will see where computer graphics began and how far they've come. And no matter how much you think you know about them already, you'll be surprised by some of what you see.
The show is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday and stays open until 9 p.m. each Friday. Admission is $2. For further information, phone 534-1158.
*IN CONJUNCTION WITH "An Elegant Merging" the Media Center will present two sidebar programs:
Computer graphics pioneers James Blinn, Kenvin Lyman, Ron Resch and Richard Taylor and artist Tony Smith will present a roundtable discussion of the fusion of arts and technology at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Salt Lake Art Center auditorium. Admission is free.
Noted artist Anna Campbell Bliss will discuss the computer's use in visual arts at 8 p.m. Monday in the Salt Lake Art Center auditorium. Admission is $4.