DRAWING, DRAFTING, PAINTING WITH COMPUTERS
by V. V. Alexandrov and V. S. Shneiderov.
Leningrad, 1988. 128 pp.
HOW THE MACHINE DRAWS
Nauka, Moscow, 1988. 224 pp.
Revieu ed by Evgeny V. Mikheyev,
Adoratsky Str., Kazan, 420136, Russia.
Almost all books on machine graphics published to date in the former Soviet Union have been written by foreign authors (e.g. D. Michie and R. Johnston, "The Creative Computer: Machine Intelligence and Human Knowledge" [Moscow: Mir, 1987]; J. Foley and A. Van Dam, "Fundamentals of Interactive Machine Graphics" [Moscow: Mir, 1985]; U. Newman and R. S. Sproll, "Bases of Interactive Machine Graphics" [Moscow: Mir, 1976]; V. Gilloy, "Interactive Machine Graphics" [Moscow: Mir, 1981]). The Russian books reviewed here are the first accessible texts for a wide range of readers. Oddly, these books have been published as manuals for youths, pupils and art students - this is curious because computer graphics itself is only just becoming a formal area of study here.
"Drawing, Drafting, Painting with Computers" is intended for students beginning to work with computers and with the technical tools used in graphics applications. This book is written in a style that is both accessible and fascinating. Even readers with very little knowledge of computers or computer graphics will find that this book lays a firm foundation for further study. Keeping in mind the general lack of exposure to computers in the former USSR, the authors dedicated the first part of the book to definitions of simple terms (e.g. processor, display, plotter) that might be considered rudimentary in a more computer-literary culture. In contrast to a number of other computer manuals, this book focuses on computer graphics and includes an explanation of how early graphics were created in the GRAFOR programming language (a graphic realization of the FORTRAN language). This serves to familiarize the reader with the different graphic capabilities of the machine: methods of creating spatial pictures, engaging in dialogue with the computer and working with aspects of projection and design.
A separate section of the book is devoted to computer art and includes a brief history of this relatively new genre and its dialectical development. This section also contains computer graphic illustrations by both foreign and Soviet artists (e.g. "Flowers in FORTRAN" by Thomas Hewston , "Dance of the Butterflies" by Mutsuki Sasaky ). Further the possibility of using computers to create live animation is considered. In the appendix, several paint programs in the GRAFOR language are presented.
The second work, "How the Machine Draws" elucidates practical aspects of computer graphics and is geared toward students of technical colleges. Its focus is less artistic and more dedicated to solving projection and design problems associated with computer graphics -- particularly those of the traditional directions of the discipline, which were formed when its main programming orientation was the combination of lines to create images. As in "Drawing, Drafting, Painting with Computers", the first section of this book is devoted to a description of graphic devices, but in the context of computers produced by Soviet manufacturers. The analysis is highly mathematical, detailing the creation of different types of lines, methods of transforming coordinates and ways of linking different projections. A number of programs are presented in the book, allowing the creation of complex graphics. The programs are written in llic ALGRAPH programming language, which was designed specially for computers of the Soviet series "EC" (created in the 1960s and similar to the IBM 360/370 series). Although the software and hardware described may be foreign to most readers, I think this book will be of interest to those outside of Russia too, because, even as technology continues to develop, the mathematical basis for computer graphics and the principles behind programs remain quite stable. Although we will see computers become smaller and more reliable and powerful, Pythagoras's theorem will not lose its applicability even in the twenty-first century!
These books together will provide a full explanation of the development of computer art, especially of graphic applications in the former Soviet Union.
Published in "Leonardo", v.27, N 5, 1994, pp. 447-448