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Utah Teapot
Gift of Martin Newell, X398.84
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Computer generated teapot rendering
Credit: Steve Baker

Utah Teapot
c. 1974
Melitta, United States

Originally purchased by graduate student Martin Newell in a Salt Lake City, Utah, department store, this ordinary teapot became a famous model used by many pioneers of the computer graphics community. Researchers developing rendering algorithms for texture and shading tested them on the data that described the teapotís shape. The actual teapot is about 30% taller than many of its computer-generated images because the data was originally recorded for the rectangular pixels of early displays.

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"Mona by the Numbers"
Gift of Henry S. Forrest, X1028.90
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A close-up view of Mona's right eye
Credit: Computer History Museum

Mona by the Numbers
Control Data Corporation, United States

In 1964, H. Philip Peterson of Control Data Corporation (CDC) used a CDC 3200 computer and a "flying-spot" scanner to create a digital representation of the Mona Lisa. The image contained 100,000 pixels that were plotted using numerals, sometimes overprinted, to approximate the required density and took 14 hours to complete.

Similar digital images of popular art, cartoon characters, and even nudes adorned the walls of corporate offices, labs, and computer centers throughout the 1960s.

Aaron Paint System Artwork
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Harold Cohen, Aaron Paint System
On loan from Gwen and Gordon Bell