Milestone-Proposal:Computer Graphics Development

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Docket #:2020-11

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on the edit button in toolbar above, indicated by an icon displaying a pencil on paper. At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

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, 1968-1995

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. 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)?

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. Sutherland, US 3639736, 1972, "Display Window by Clipping" was used in his National Inventors Hall of Fame

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.

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).