A Talk With Computer Graphics Pioneer Ivan Sutherland


Dr. Ivan Sutherland is the 2012 winner of the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology. The award, created by Dr. Kazuo Inamori, founder of not one but two major Japanese companies — Kyocera and KDDI — is a Nobel-like honor given to individuals each year for advanced technology, basic sciences and arts and philosophy. Sutherland, who was born in 1938, isn’t a household name, but there’s nobody more deserving of such as honor. I got to chat with him recently about his work and the prize.

In 1963, while a student at MIT, Sutherland created a highly interactive drawing-and-design program called Sketchpad, at a time when the concept of computer graphics barely existed. It used an oscilloscope for a display, allowed the user to draw with a light pen and ran on MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s TX-2, which had a then-remarkable 64KB of memory.

Fortunately for us, MIT produced a…

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