1980 Computer digital art and music


World human population in 1980 was 4.43 billion. In 2020 it is 7.87 billion, an increase of 3.43 billion (3,430,000,000) people, 76% more. Nov 2022 it is 8 billion.

For every 4 people then, there are now nearly 8. Hello everyone!

Computer Art

Dominic Boreham was the editor of PAGE, the Computer Art Society magazine  1979 – 1982.

John Lansdown, co-founder of the Computer Arts Society, wrote a quarterly column ‘Not Only Computing – Also Art’ for the British Computer Society BCS Bulletin from 1974 to 1992.

Brian Reffin Smith became College Tutor in computer-based art and design at the Royal College of Art (UK) from 1980 to 1984.

Peter BeylisOne Bit Network – five Commodore PET computers installation at Plan K, Brussels, Beligium.

Harold Cohen, ‘Primavera in the Spring,’ created for the Computer Museum, Massachusetts USA.

Cohen has been active with computers since he started working at University of California in 1968, developing AARON, a drawing generator, written in C then Lisp.

Ernest Edmonds – time-based generative works (known as Video Constructs) developed from 1980. Working with PICASO and PRISM, early plotting and colour rendering systems, used at Middlesex Polytechnic. PICASO, for plotting, was in use at over 25 UK academic institutes.

Joseph Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski – Futuresight, in the Melville Hall, Adelaide (Australia) was opened by physicist Sir Mark Oliphant. Ostoja-Kotkowski was famous for sound, image, laser and computer art.

Bill Viola – video artist (US). From 1973 to 1980, he studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the group ‘Composers Inside Electronics’ (previously named ‘Rainforest’)

Michael Short – uses CGAL (Computer Graphics and Animation Language) which was in early development by Peter Comninos, to create the image series Spike (exhibited 1981, Teeside Polytechnic).

Mark Wilson – early digital image maker, bought a micro computer and taught himself computer programming. Also used PostScript later in the 1980s to produce composite images.

Stelarc – Third Hand – designed at Waseda University, Tokyo, and created in Yokohama. Explored the interface of technology and prosthetic augmentation. A technological and human “symptom of excess”. Later used in performances such as Fractal Flesh, Ping Body, Parasite. Stelarc is influential Australian human/technology performance artist originally from Greece.

Minitel art was created by Eduardo Kac in 1985 and 1986, on the Brazilian Minitel network.

There is now a music group Dead Minitel Orchestra on Soundcloud making ‘chiptune’, 8-bit music.

Minitel – teletext system. France Telecom offered free to every phone subscriber. Rolled out experimentally in July 1981, introduced commercially in France in 1982. Minitel could be considered the first mass ‘web’ service before the World Wide Web. Users could make purchases, have a mailbox and chat, as well as check train schedules, stock prices and the telephone directory. Minitel, also known as TELETEL or Télétel, was also released in Belgium, Ireland South America and USA, but was mostly used by businesses, and so did not reach a mass market outside of France. Similar services were used in several other countries, such as Prestel in the UK.

Micronet 800, an information provider used on Prestel, was developed from 1980 and 1981. Prestel was an interactive videotext program in the UK, which started in the 1970s, launched commercially in 1979. Users would log onto the Prestel network and then onto an information provider, such as Micronet 800, the name of which came from typing ‘#800’ to access it.

Micronet 800 was significant for its online services, for chat, games, email, news, reviews, plus a gallery and downloadable software. In 1985, Micro Arts (UK) were invited to Micronet 800.

Sinclair ZX80 introduced in January in the UK, either prebuilt or in kit form. 8-bit personal home computer, CPU Z80 at 3.25 MHz. Very cheap, under £99.95 prebuilt.

Acorn Atom – home computer made by Acorn Computers Ltd UK from 1980 to 1982, when it was replaced by the BBC Micro.  MOS Technology 6502 CPU.

Paintbox introduced by Quantel in 1980 NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show, subsequently launched in 1981. A dedicated graphics workstation much used for television graphics.

CGAL (Computer Graphics Animation Language)  first announcement was in 1980 Eurographics Proceedings. CGAL was Peter Comninos’ PhD project, awarded 1983 for ‘using interactive programming languages for the production of animated films of models of 3-D solids’. It is actually a surface modeller and physical material properties (eg rigidity), gravity, etc., could not be added.

Aurora Systems founded by Dick Shoup and Damon Rarey. Design and market the Aurora/100 digital videographic system, 8-bit hardware and software paint system.

Ampex Video Art (AVA) commercial 8-bit paint program and hardware created by Thomas Porter, Rodney Stock, Larry Evans, Ken Turkowski.

Motorola introduces the 32-bit 68000 CPU with 16-bit data bus in November.

The Berkeley, University of California, RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) project started in 1980 under the direction of David Patterson and Carlo H. Sequin. See MIPS 1982

Challenge of the Chip – retrospective and contemporary exhibition at the Science Museum (UK). Amongst other demonstrations, had an industrial robot creating drawings.

Zork created by Infocom, following on from the late 1970s Colossal Cave Adventure. Text adventure with many text puzzles, it became a huge success and led to other interactive fiction titles. Released on the Tandy TRS-80, with a Z80 CPU.

Rubik’s Cube – January/February – international launch at toy fairs in London, Paris, Nuremberg, and New York. This was patented by Rubic in 1975 as a Magic Cube.

Rogue a Dungeons and Dragons style text adventure game, released on Unix after two years of work. Rogue displayed dungeon maps using text characters. Inspired by text-based computer games such as the Star Trek (1971) and Colossal Cave Adventure (1976 ). Unlike other games the Rogue dungeon was randomly generated for each play session, so created a non-linear narrative, with near-endless variety. Freely distributed with Unix.

Pac-Man – maze arcade game released by Namco. Was called Puck-Man but name changed to stop juvenile defacement in arcades. Originally marketed to female gamers as the active agent ‘eats’ rather than ‘kills’. See References for more 1980s computer games. There was also a Ms. Pac Man (1981) with a bit more variety and less garish colours.

Missile Command released, and immediately became one of the top arcade games. Cold War scenario, clear graphics, simple but hard game play.

Defender released, another top arcade game, with horizontal game play.

Space Invaders II – follow up to original, with a UFO.

Mandlebrot set – at an IBM research centre in New York, Benoit Mandelbrot, a mathematician, saw the first visualisation a fractal set. See Chaos theory, 1984, 1987.

Linn LM-1 Drum Computer – first drum machine with samples and programming.   Followed in 1982 by the LinnDrum. See Oberheim, Simmons, Drumulator.

Synclavier II released 8-bit FM/additive synthesis, 32-track memory recorder, and ORK keyboard. Sampling was added in 1982. It was based on the original Synclavier 1 which was an FM synth (FM licensed from Yamaha).

Computers for Image-making – influential book by David R. Clark (Pergamon Press).

Jon Hassell and Brian Eno – ‘Fourth World, Volume 1: Possible Musics‘ album released in April, new blend of ethnic and ambient recordings. Described by Hassell as “a unified primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques”.

Cabaret Voltaire – Sheffield art band, who use electronics and tape manipulation, have an ‘indie’ hit in July with the album The Voice of America, an unusual and menacing toe-tapping sound collage, using recordings and treated voice and instruments.

Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of US band Talking Heads visited MIT Boston Computer Department and were give access to the state of the art computer graphics processing, to make the red overlays on the head shots used on the album cover of  Remain In Light, released in October.  These took a weekend to render on the mainframe computer, which was usually reserved for the military.

Leigh Bowery Australian performance artist and fashion designer arrives in London. Has influence on 1980s New Romantics and Blitz culture and appears in many films and videos in the experimental art scene in the early 1980s.