Ivan Sutherland was the mastermind inventor and developer of MIT's Sketchpad. The Computer Graphics pioneer, Sutherland was born in 1938, and in 1963, while an MIT student, created a highly interactive drawing-and-design program called Sketchpad.
Sketchpad's many innovations included a display file to refresh the screen, a hierarchical structure for modeling graphical objects, recursive methods for geometric transformations, and an object-oriented programming style. In 1968, Sutherland co-founded Evans & Sutherland Computer Corporation, he was vice president and chief scientist of the company.
He was also the chairman of the computer science department at Caltech from 1976 to 1980. In the 1980's, Sutherland left Caltech to establish the consulting firm Sutherland, Sproull and Associates. He also founded Advanced Technology Ventures, a venture capital firm. In 1964, MIT produced a TV show about Sketchpad, this featured researchers talking about the product and software. The demo section of the video starts at 3:30, if you would like to skip to that section.
Dr. Ivan Sutherland won the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology in 2012. Ivan Sutherland did not know exactly how he was jump-starting a revolution that would carry on for decades. He was asked if he knew how he was changing the tech world. This is what he said:
“The future is very hard to see. I had no idea of what would happen in the future, nor did I think of it much. I just wanted to make nice pictures.”
In 1968, Sutherland and fellow University of Utah computer-science professor David Evans founded Evens & Sutherland, which was responsible for the flight simulators.
Sutherland was a very humble man, when asked which one of his accomplishments pleased him the most. He replied with "the thing I'm most proud of is my grandchildren." He later mentioned an achievement in his 1999 book Logical Effort, co-written with Sproull and David Harris, on designing fast circuits.
Sutherland's research focused on making a forward leap in circuit design by ditching one of the fundamental facts about almost all processors.
They performed tasks synchronously, at a rate governed by the processor's clock. The clockspeeds led to faster processors. Sutherland's concern with the paradigm is that it doesn't scale.
When Sutherland was asked what he thought about the industry's future, he responded, “You’d have to ask someone who’s 25 years old, not someone who’s 74. I haven’t done any computer graphics in the last 35 years. I’ve just been doing my thing and having fun.”
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This Day in History
A Talk with Computer Graphics Pioneer Ivan Sutherland
Publsihed April 12, 2014