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A Short PreHistory of Computer Modeling

 

Longtime computer modeler Brian Barsky at the University of California, Berkeley, explains, "The mathematics underlying modeling pre-dates computers themselves. In shipbuilding days of old, boat plans had to be drafted full scale and limber pieces of wood, called splines, were used to design the curves necessary for efficient hydrodynamics. As mathematicians began the study of more complex curves and surfaces, the term spline became used for the mathematical representation of a shape."



Modeling has a twofold meaning in computer graphics, depending on whether your emphasis is on computers or graphics.


Barsky continues, "In France in the 60's, Pierre Bezier, a toolsetter at Renault, and Paul de Castlejau, a researcher at Citroen, working independently both developed related methods of describing curves and surfaces. Robin Forrest reformulated Bezier's method and constructed the approach that we refer to today as Bezier curves and surfaces. Around the same time, Steve Coons published a technical report at MIT, familiarly known as the 'The Little Red Book' because of its cover, and thus computer aided geometric design and modeling was born." Modeling has a twofold meaning in computer graphics, depending on whether your emphasis is on computers or graphics. On the graphics side is the artistic definition of modeling, building up a form from smaller pieces, such as combining a sphere and a column and a cone to make a teapot or a spaceship. Think Tinker Toys or Legos. On the computer side is the mathemagic required to manipulate all those thousands of points making up that teapot or flying saucer. Think bicubic parameters and B-spline surfaces. And from this dichotomy of artist versus engineer comes a diversity of progress in modeling.

 

 


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