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The Genesis of Computer Art-FORTRAN (Backus) a Computer Art Medium Creates a Mosaic Mona Lisa

Where did computer art, computer graphics, and computer animation begin?

Written communication became shareable and ubiquitous once stone engravings were replaced by the mobility of paper and ink. Similarly, once computer languages ​​advanced from machine or assembler code to third-generation computer languages, only then did computer output advance from simple alphanumeric prints (perhaps mosaic) to graphics and images with smooth curves and realism.

Computer graphics production had its humble beginning when alphanumeric characters hammered into line and TTY printers to render XY graphics and even mosaic images. It was crude, but it allowed a more efficient analysis of mathematical and scientific solutions. Computer programming languages ​​such as FORTRAN and BASIC made it easy to develop and program CRT printers, plotters, and displays to display and print graphics and, ultimately, images.

The FORTRAN programming language: a brief historical and personal overview.

FORTRAN programming as an artistic medium?

So it was possible to create an alphanumeric printed image of the famous Mona Lisa using FORTRAN printed statements. This image of the Mona Lisa was made by printing and overprinting standard alphanumeric characters, creating a mosaic artwork to form an image of the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting. Step back from this computer printout and you saw a simple replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Achieving this rudimentary computer art would be hours and days of tedious work that would involve the following steps:

1) You should take a copy of the original image and a grid (mapped to the 133 character width of a standard computer printed page) on a piece of transparency.

2) Place the grid transparency on top of the image and then fill in the grid cells above the image with alphanumeric characters that will represent a mosaic of the original image.

3) Highlight the grid cells to be overprinted (in bold) to create shadows and textures that match the original image.

4) Now take each line from the grid and encode it using FORTRAN print statements.

5) Like a paint brush, the Mona Lisa computer-printed image will take shape after many days of coding.

For a full version of this process and a resulting computer mosaic of the Mona Lisa, see the images in the Pisaca Web Albums at:

Search has started for access to 80 column punch card reader.

The FORTRAN code for the Mona Lisa Mosaic is on original 90-column punch cards. Gaining access to an 80 column card reader could make it easier to move the Mona Lisa FORTRAN code from its analog state to a digital version. Using an online editor, I was once again able to unleash the power of FORTRAN to print copies of the “computer mosaic” Mona Lisa. Then ‘Mosaic Mona’ would be available for the world to enjoy.

My infatuation with FORTRAN programming might have stemmed from the fact that FORTRAN and I were both created by chance in 1954. Thanks John Backus for FORTRAN.

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