Tom Sito proves that history can be fun and relevant. Beginning with Sketchpad in 1963, computer graphic imaging still has new technological and artistic horizons. Sito uses words, not glossy coffee table book images, to present the many threads of research and usage that bring us to today. What is striking is how much has been accomplished in a comparatively brief 50-year period. No special technical background is required to profitably understand how what we see today came into being.
Sito, a professional animator since 1975, lived through much of this history and is uniquely qualified to tell the story. Entire chapters are devoted to particular user groups, such as the military, academia, hackers, gaming, motion pictures, cartoons, and Pixar. While one may read the book cover to cover, it is also possible to focus on a specific subset of innovators and developers. A 34-page index allows readers to rapidly locate people and creations, and an appendix, “Dramatis Personae,” has thumbnail biographies of approximately 100 key contributors to computer animation. There is a glossary of words and another of acronyms and abbreviations. The book is exceptionally well organized. Consequently, a reader with a very elementary understanding of computer animation will have no difficulty following the story. Sito’s work may well become a standard reference.
Readers need to know that this is neither a book of code nor a picture book. Sito tells interesting stories about the personalities that contributed to what we have today, bringing these individuals to life. However, these are not stories for their own sake; they move the narrative along. The messy mixture that produces innovation is one lesson to learn. Another lesson is the entrepreneurial willingness to take risks that stands behind present successes. Excitement and focus produce breakthroughs. Readers will enjoy Sito’s educational book.
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