"Prehystories of New Media" class at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Fall 2008 + 2009, instructor: Nina Wenhart

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”
Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931
Le Conquete de l’ubiquite

>> students' research papers, Fall 2008

class .03

computer history – SAGE and ARPAnet


#01: time context

-- atomic bomb

-- post war time

-- Cold War

----- former allies become enemies

----- arms race

----- perpetual escalation to keep peace

----- mutually assured destruction (MAD)

-- WW2 over, technology developed, world split in two, threat of the nuclear bomb, arms race between the US and USSR → Cold War→ negative image of technology

-- also the time when new technologies reached everyday life → World Fair in NY in 1939 and 1964 (→ see also: Brussels 1958 → Xenakis/LeCorbusier/Varese; Gsellmann)→ positive image of technology

-- video: “Duck and Cover”, 1951

-- video: “A is for Atom”, 1953

#02: the SAGE system

-- url to MITRE: http://www.mitre.org/about/photo_archives/sage_photo.html

-- predecessor: Whirlwind

----- Navy contracted MIT to develop flight simulator to train their bombers

----- realtime

----- very expensive --> Navy lost interest

----- proposal for use in air-defense

----- radar labs

----- feasibility study (“Project Charles”, 1949)

-- start of the MIT's Lincoln Labs (1954, director: J.C.R.Licklider)

----- http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/mits-lincoln-labs.html

-- SAGE = Semi-Automatic Ground Environment

----- video + info: http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/sage-project.html

----- how it worked:

------- each of the SAGE site connected to radar stations

------- radar signal transmitted via telephone lines and modems to computer

------- tracking data displayed on CRT as icons

------- lightpen to interact with icons

---------- lightpen: see Ivan Sutherland: Sketchpad

---------- video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOZqRJzE8xg

------- response

----- first site operational in 1957

----- when system was fully operational, it was outdated already (--> Soviets had switcherd to missiles)

----- most expensive project + largest computer ever built (AN/FSQ-7, built by IBM)

----- incredibly important steps in the development of computer graphics:

------- realtime output on monitor (CRT)

------- lightpen as interaction device

------- backup computer as “dual processor”

------- memory

------- system included long distance communication via telephone lines + modems

#03: ARPAnet

-- 1957: launch of Sputnik (USSR), means “companion”

-- 1958 → ARPA: Advanced Research Projects Agency, space tech; renamed DARPA, then again ARPA, then again DARPA

-- “DARPA’s original mission, established in 1958, was to prevent technological surprise like the launch of Sputnik, which signaled that the Soviets had beaten the U.S. into space. The mission statement has evolved over time. Today, DARPA’s mission is still to prevent technological surprise to the US, but also to create technological surprise for our enemies.”

-- from 1960 on, all space related research was transferred to the newly created NASA (1958)

-- ARPA only occupied with computer science, information processing, behavioural sciences (→ cybernetics) → see R.Barbrook, “Imaginary Futures” about the national spendings on social sciences around this time!

-- cooperation with MIT/Lincoln Labs, Bell Labs and General Electrics

-- connecting computers at universities, which had a common protocol to communicate

-- first internet (started 1969)

----- J.C.R. Licklider at MIT's Lincoln Labs

------- first head of the computer research program at DARPA (his successor was Ivan Sutherland; Sutherland's brother Burt was one of the main developers of the TX-2 computers, btw, → Whirlwind)

------- “Man-Computer Symbiosis”, 1960; http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2009/09/man-computer-symbiosis-jcr-licklider.html

------- series of memos in 1962

----- TX-2 at MIT connected to computer in California → first “internet” (1965)

------- http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/tx-0-and-tx-2.html

----- dial-up telephone line, circuit switched system → replaced by packet switching

------- packet switches called IMP = Interface Message Processor (concept from MIT, NPL (GB) and Paul Baran's group at RAND → for military, 1964)

----- each server in this network was called a node

------- Kleinrock's institute at UCLA was the first

------- second node at SRI (Douglas Engelbart → inventor of the mouse:

---------- SRI: http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/sri-international.html

---------- video: “mother of all demos”: http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2009/09/mother-of-all-demos-douglas-engelbart.html

------- third and fourth at UCSB and U of Utah (→ Ivan Sutherland, who worked there at 3d vis.)

----- in 1969: first host comp connected

----- brief history of the beginning of the internet: http://www.isoc.org/internet/history/brief.shtml

-- ideas can be traced back to Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think”, 1945

----- first published in the Atlantic Monthly

----- memex (memory + index) = concept of hypertext

------- components: cameras, readers, storage (= microfilm), desk (→ desktop computer)

------- tech. progress to make knowledge more accessible

---------- "Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready-made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified."

---------- a link in a memex could be extended + adapted for your own purposes → shared, but also personal → see: Walden's Path project

------- what became of V.Bush's ideas?: “associative trails” --> hypertext, new encyclopedias (→ wikipedia, 2001), semantic web; PCs/desktop, speech recognition, paperless future office

------- inspired the inventors of the internet (selection):

---------- J.C.R. Licklider, MIT, “Man-Computer Symbiosis”, 1960

---------- Ted Nelson, “Project Xanadu”, early 60s, “computer Lib/Dream Machine”

---------- Doug Engelbart, “NLS”, SRI, 1968

---------- Tim Berners-Lee, “World Wide Web”, CERN, 1989/90

---------- video: Hyperland”, Douglas Adams, BBC2, 1990, http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2009/09/hyperland-douglas-adams-1990.html

#03b: "The Net", Lutz Dammbeck, 2003/04

-- topics include: cybernetics (norbert wiener et al, macy conferences), unabomber (ted kazcynski), counterculture (stewart brand, whole earth catalogue, the well, usco,...), studies of human behaviour @ harvard (murray/leary/LSD; authoritarian bahaviour), internet/ARPAnet
-- website for the documentary, including texts in english and german: http://www.t-h-e-n-e-t.com/start_html.htm

#04: assignment

-- write a short paragraph (~1/3 - 1/2 page) with your impressions and thoughts about "The Net", post it to our ning (prehystories.ning.com);
-- deadline: Tuesday (29th of Sept) evening

No comments:

>> recommended books

  • Richard Barbrook - Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village
  • Fred Turner - From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
  • Howard Rheingold, Tools for Thought, MIT Press, 2000 or online: http://rheingold.com/texts/tft/index.html
  • Oliver Grau - MediaArtHistories
  • Oliver Grau - Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion
  • Neil Spiller, Cyber Reader: Critical Writings for the Digital Era. Phaidon Press, 2002
  • Stephen Wilson - Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology: Intersections of Art, Science and Technology
  • Gene Youngblood - Expanded Cinema
  • Ruth Leavitt - Artist and Computer
  • Jasia Reichardt - The Computer in Art
  • Jasia Reichardt - Robots. Fact, Fiction and Prediction
  • Herbert Franke - Computer Graphics, Computer Art
  • Frieder Nake - Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung: Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Informatik im Bereich ästhetischer Produktion und Kritik (Hardcover)
  • Norbert Wiener - Cybernetics
  • Claus Pias - Cybernetics - Kybernetik 2. The Macy-Conferences 1946-1953
  • Jasia Reichardt, Cybernetic serendipity: The computer and the arts, 1968
  • Catherine Morris, 9 Evenings Reconsidered, 2007
  • John Cage, Variations VII by John Cage: E.A.T. - 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering (1966) - DVD
  • Robert Rauschenberg: E.A.T. and ARTPIX: Open Score by Robert Rauschenberg (1966) - DVD
  • Noah Wardrip-Fruin - From Wagner to Multimedia
  • Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic + Mysticism in the Age of Information
  • Wendy Hui Kyong Chun - New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader
  • R.L.Rutsky - High Techné: Art and Technology from the Machine Aesthetic to the Posthuman
  • Lev Manovich - The Language of New Media
  • Lev Manovich - Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database
  • Siegfried Zielinski - Variantology. On Deep Time. Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies: On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies
  • Siegfried Zielinski - Deep Time of New Media
  • Timothy Druckrey - Facing the Future. 20 years of Ars Electronica


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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.