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Monday, June 21, 2010

Charles Csuri, computer animation pioneer

Ed Driscoll incautiously mentions the historical origins of 3D computer graphics at his blog. I don't know anything about computer graphics, but I did have a brush with its history.

You mention that 3d computer graphics date back to the 1970s. A lot of the early work on 3d computer animation was done by Charles Csuri at Ohio State. His empire was next to the laboratory where I did my graduate work from 1979 on. I’d often catch glimpses of what they were doing as I walked down the hall, and see the final results on TV a few months later.

Csuri was an interesting guy. He was an All-American linebacker for Woody Hayes, then came back to Ohio State as an art professor. But the Art Department refused to support his work with computers since, to them, that wasn’t Art. He switched to the Computer Science Department, and eventually became one of the biggest funding magnets on campus.

Csuri was once contacted about working on a movie called “Star Wars” but turned them down. Couldn’t spare the time. But he gave them the name of a student who was about to graduate and needed a job, and they hired the guy. Worked out real good for him.

That was off the top of my head. The Wikipedia article on Charles Csuri adds some detail. He's an even more interesting guy than I made him out to be.

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