World’s First Computer Art: Sexy

January 24, 2013 | Eugene Reznik

In 1956, one anonymous proto-hacker took to a $238 million military computer and used it to render an image of a woman from a December issue of Esquire magazine on a small CRT screen. This marked one of the most important, newly unearthed landmarks in the history of computer graphics and digital art.

Here’s how Benj Edwards, computer and video game history journalist, eloquently put it:

Using equipment designed to guard against the apocalypse, a pin-up girl had been drawn.

She was quite probably the first human likeness to ever appear on a computer screen.

She glowed.

Adjusted for inflation, the cost of that machine, engineered by MIT and IBM for real important military defense stuff at the height of the Cold War, would be $1.89 billion today.

None of the veterans of the of military’s computer program, known as SAGE, interviewed for Edwards’ piece recall this specific pin-up girl image, but some do pin point 1960 as the year of the world’s first computer porn.

IBM instructors developed a “diagnostic program” as a way to “immediately engage a group of all-male, usually 18-24 year old computer novices.”

“It featured the rough outline of topless hula dancer with a grass skirt,” Edwards writes, “And it was interactive.”