October 2008


I have to admit I forgot where I picked up this scan of Cybernetic Serendipity: the computer and the arts (PDF, 11.2 MB) from 1968, but it is too interesting to let it settle dust in my tabs. Remember:

You can create art and beauty on a computer.

To quote from the introduction:

It is very rare, however, that new media and new systems should bring in their wake new people to become involved in creative activity, be it composing music, drawing, constructing or writing.

This is what happened in the advent of computers. […] People who would never have put pencil to paper, brush to canvas, have started making images, both still and animated, which approximate and often look identical to what we call ‘art’ and put in public gallieries.

The book is full of such art.

It also includes one of the first digital images ever scanned, which took 16 hours to plot again—depicting Norbert Wiener.

There are articles written by Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage on computer music, by Norbert Wiener on cybernetics, by Lionel Penrose (Roger Penrose’s dad) on automatic mechanical self-replication (available 40 years later).

It features an article on how Music IV is used, an early predecessor to Csound that still exists today, on simulated synaesthesia, on combinatorial geometry and on computer-proportioned buildings. Sketchpad already is dismissed as “now ‘antique’”, in spite of being just six year old.

One article compares Mondrian’s “Composition with lines” to computer generated art. There are even ALGOL programs for “rendering” balls.

And then, there are computer-aided haikus:

eons deep in the ice
I see gelled time in a whorl
pffftt the sludge has cracked

It’s a true gem, don’t miss it.

Copyright © 2008–2017