Strange Loop

Recreating forgotten programming languages, for art!

The early beginnings of computer graphics in the 1960s saw the birth of a number programming languages that were created specifically for making animations and graphics. Almost all of them are now obsolete and mostly forgotten. However, back then, many of these languages cutting-edge and made possible the completely new field of making art with computers. A prolific example of this was Bell Labs' BEFLIX, a language created to make animations using a microfilm plotter.

Surviving documentation of these languages are scarce, much less the actual compilers or interpreters themselves. They were simple languages, yet they were used to create some of the most complex and compelling graphics even by today's standard. In order to understand how they were made, as well as the limitations of computer graphics that artists and programmers were working with, I attempted to recreate an interpreter for ART 1. ART 1 was unique, it was the first ever documented programming language designed specifically for those new to programming to create art. In this talk we'll see how I hunted for surviving documentation, built the interpreter and finally used it to reverse engineer some of the earliest iconic computer art pieces. Expect to see lots of vintage computer art!

Sher Minn Chong

Sher Minn Chong

Sher Minn is a web platform engineer by day and a casual generative artist at night. Some of her favorite things are web tech, drawing comics, and teaching programming.