Milestone-Proposal:Computer Graphics Development

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Docket #:2020-11

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Computer Graphics Development

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

The University of Utah became an innovator in computer graphics when Ivan Sutherland was invited by John Evans in 1968. They also formed Evans and Sutherland developing flight simulators. Contributions of students of this era founded companies: Adobe, Atari, Netscape, and Pixar. One culmination of novel graphics technologies is the film Toy Story in 1995. Utah’s innovation story is still unfolding.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Utah Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Utah Section
Senior Officer Name: Daniel N. Donahoe

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Utah Section
Senior Officer Name: Daniel N. Donahoe

Unit: {{{Unit}}}
Senior Officer Name: {{{Senior officer name}}}

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE Utah Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Daniel N. Donahoe

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Daniel N. Donahoe
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

40.76885278, -111.84611111

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. Merrill Engineering Building

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

Likley external, to be determined by Dean Brown

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?


Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Univ. of Utah Dean Brown

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

Faculty and alumni of computer science and electrical engineering went on to form several large companies (creating new industries), invented novel technologies (including patents and papers) and have been awarded distinguished prizes. The culmination of this work was, perhaps, the first fully computer generated movie in 1995. Drs. Catmull, Kay and Sutherland were all awarded the ACM Turing Award. Drs. Catmull and Sutherland have also been awarded the IEEE John von Newman Medal. Drs. Kay and Sutherland were both awarded the Kyoto Prize.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

In 1968 computer graphics was rudimentary. In fact, Ivan Sutherland is known as "the father of computer graphics" for his PhD thesis at MIT in which he invented Sketchpad, a two dimensional graphical interface. This was a far cry from full computer animation of three dimensional images as is common today in films, in games, in flight simulators, in computer aided design, often in real time. Part of this work was software related and part was hardware related. Evans and Sutherland produced the progenitor of the modern GPU for their CT5 flight simulator.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

In the timespan from 1968-1995, especially in the early part of this period, no other assembly of individuals contributed so much innovation to the computer industry, especially to graphics and user interface. These same names were the folks who worked in Silicon Valley to establish legendary computing innovations: Alan Kay at Xerox Parc, James Clark at Stanford, Nolan Bushnell at Atari, and Edwin Catmull at Pixar. Others contributed in other geographies such as, notably, James Kajiya at California Institute of Technology (author of the rendering equation).

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

1. I. Sutherland, US 3639736, 1972, "Display Window by Clipping" was used as title of his National Inventors Hall of Fame induction announcement.
2. D. Blythe, "Rise of the Graphics Processor", Proceedings of the IEEE, V96N4, May 2008: "The earliest applications driving the development of computer graphics were computer-aided design (CAD) and flight simulation" [such as Evans and Sutherland produced].
3. A. Exline, "Computer Graphics", IEEE Potential, April 1990: "During the 1960s, Ivan Sutherland and David Evans, the “godfathers” of computer graphics, gravitated to the University of Utah."
4. G. Bishop, "Fast Phong Shading", ACM SIGGRAPH, V2N4, 1986: "We have shown that computer image generation systems can use Phong shading with only a little more computation per pixel than is required for Gouraud shading " [shading methods from Utah]
5. J. Kajiya, "The Rendering Equation", ACM SIGGRAPH, Vol20N4, 1986: "We present an integral equation which generalizes a variety of known rendering algorithms." [presented when Dr. Kajiya was at Cal Tech]
6. T. Duff, "Smoothlv Shaded Renderings of Polyhedral Objects on Raster Displays ", ACM, 1979: Provides discussion of Drs. Blinn, Gourand and Phong's work at Utah.
7. J. Warnock, " A Hidden Surface Algorithm for Computer Generated Halftone Pictures" [PhD dissertation at Univ. of Utah], 1969: "I express my appreciation to Dr. David C. Evans, Dr" Ivan E. Sutherland, and Dr. Dan Cohen for their great insight, help, and encouragement in the development of this work. The many hours they have spent with me in discussion have provided the intellectual stimulus required to carryon this research."
8. J. Plutte, Computer History Museum, 17 April, 2013: "This year, the Computer History Museum honors Ed Catmull as a CHM Fellow. Fellows are unique individuals who have made a major difference to computing and to the world around them."
9. E. Catmull, "A Subdivision Algoritm for Computer Display of Curved Surfaces", UrEC-CSc-74-133 [DoD version of dissertation], 1974: "This report presents a method for producing computer shaded pictures of curved surfaces. Three-dimensional curved patches are used, as contrasted with conventional method using polygons. The method subdivides a patch into successively smaller subpatches until a subpatch is as small as a rasterelement, at which time it can be displayed. In general this method could be very time consuming because of the great number of subdivisions that must take place; however, there is at least one very useful class of patches--the bicubic patch--that can be subdivided very quickly. Pictures produced with the method accurately portray the shading and silhouette of curved surfaces. In addition, photographs can be "mapped" onto patches thus providing a means for putting textur3 on computer-generated pictures."
10. J. Clark, "3-D Design of Free-Form B-Spline Surfaces", [Utah PhD dissertation] 1974: "This thesis describes an experimental system for designing free-form B-spline surfaces using a head-mounted display. In this system, the interaction uith the surfaces takes place in three dimensions as the designed object's shape is updated in re a l-time . The thesis also examines some of the problems that should be solved in building a practical three-dimensional computer-aided geometric design system for surfaces"
11. C. Hansen, "CAGD-Based Computer Vision: The Automatic Generation of Recognition Strategies", [Utah PhD dissertation] 1987: "Three-dimensional model based computer vision uses geometric models of objects and sensed data to recognize objects in a scene. Likewise, Computer Aided Geometric Design (CAGD) systems are used to interactively generate three-dimensional models during the design process. Despite this similarity, there has been a dichotomy between these fields. Recently, the unification of CAGD and vision systems has become the focus of research in the context of manufacturing automation."
12. H. Gourand, "Continuous Shading of Curved Surfaces", IEEE Transactions on Computers, Vol C-20 N6, June 1971: introduces using polygons to represent surfaces, a method still used today. The author also created a timeless and haunting image of polygons on his wife's face (not in this particular reference)
13. J. Blinn, "Computer Display of Curved Surfaces", [Utah PhD dissertation] 1978: (to highlight the cohesiveness of this research group at Utah) " The author would like to thank the following people whose assistance has proven invaluable in the production of this thesis. Ed Catmull, Bui-Tuong Phong, and Frank Crow upon whose work much of this work is directly based. Jim Kajiya, leading me Lance Williams, and Larry Evans for first to believe that a scan line based algorithm for patches was even possible."
14. B. Tuong-Phong, "Illumination for Computer Generated Images", [Utah PhD dissertation] 1973: "This research describes a new approach to. the production of shaded pictures of solid objects. In the past decade, we have witnessed the development of an an increased number of systems for the rendering of solid objects by computer, The main computational problem has been the elimination of hidden parts of the Objects. Higher quality computer-generated images are desirable, and although several attempts to improve this quality have been made, most of the effort has been spent in the search for fast hidden surface removal algorithms"

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

The Utah Teapot

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.