Andy van Dam Will Speak At The 50th SIGGRAPH Conference

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    Andy van Dam is saying good-bye in style to a conference that he’s been attending regularly for a half-century. Now in his ninth decade and still teaching, the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. University Professor of Technology and Education and Professor of Computer Science at Brown University will be giving two talks at the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH) conference, now in its fiftieth year. Andy co-founded ACM SICGRAPH, The Special Interest Committee on Computer Graphics, the precursor to SIGGRAPH, in 1968.

    After turning Brown’s introductory Computer Graphics course over to faculty member Daniel Ritchie a few years ago, having taught it for more than five decades (as Andy says, “longer than anyone in the known universe”) and focusing his research group less on interactive 3D graphics and more on hypermedia, SIGGRAPH is no longer as relevant to him as it once was, and Andy has no current plans to continue attending after this 50-year milestone of the conference.

    Andy’s first talk, to be delivered at the conference’s plenary session, will be part of the “50 Years of Changes – How to Brace Yourself!” retrospective. Leading off the discussion, Andy will paint a picture of the decade before the first SIGGRAPH conference, in which computers were just shifting from running in “batch” mode and interactive displays were exceedingly rare. It was a decade in which vector graphics dominated, even as raster graphics waited in the wings. Andy’s fellow panelists will include James F. Blinn (widely known for his visualization work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory), Donald P. Greenberg (founding director of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center for Computer Graphics and Scientific Visualization, of which Andy’s research group was a part), Alvy R. Smith (co-founder of Lucasfilm's Computer Division and Pixar), and J. Turner Whitted (known for his introduction of recursive ray tracing to the computer graphics community).

    Andy’s second talk will be at the Pioneers Reception, where he will address a network of researchers, developers, artists, and educators who have been working in the fields of computer graphics and interactive techniques for at least 20 years. Of particular note is that for both talks, Andy will also be joined by Professor Emeritus James D. Foley of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Foley is Andy’s co-author for Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, a textbook widely considered the most authoritative introduction to the field, and which proved foundational to its development and teaching after publication (in the first edition as Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics in 1982). Later editions added co-authors Steven K. Feiner (Andy’s PhD student, now a professor at Columbia University), Brown CS faculty member John Hughes, and Morgan McGuire (John’s PhD student, now Chief Scientist at Roblox). 

    Now nearing completion of his sixth decade at Brown, Andy continues his commitment to teaching, research, and socially responsible computing. Most recently, he was named a Computer History Museum Fellow, delivered a keynote at the 30th ACM Hypertext Conference, won the inaugural ACM SIGGRAPH Distinguished Educator Award, and was named to the SIGGRAPH Academy for contributions to computer graphics

    “When I started teaching Computer Graphics after coming to Brown in 1965,” Andy tells us, “it was a niche field at best, and I was one of a handful of academics specializing in it. Having a single interactive graphics display for my research group, the IBM 2250 vector display connected to Brown’s mainframe computer, was a special privilege, and the idea that almost everyone today would be carrying around a pocket graphics supercomputer, the smartphone, for daily work, communication, and entertainment would have been considered science fiction. The progress in graphics hardware, software, and algorithms, especially in the last decade, is nothing short of phenomenal, and computer graphics can now be considered a mature field. Its continued integration with Computer Vision, Computational Photography, and other forms of Visual Computing is continuing apace, and Brown is fortunate to have a strong Visual Computing group.”

    For more information, click the following link to contact Brown CS Communications Manager Jesse C. Polhemus.