“CS 292: The Lost Lectures Computer Graphics People and Pixels in the Past 30 Years” by Chuang and Catmull

  • ©Richard Chuang and Edwin (Ed) Catmull



Entry Number: 03


    CS 292: The Lost Lectures Computer Graphics People and Pixels in the Past 30 Years



    In 1980, Ed Catmull moved from the cradle of computer graphics at New York Institute of Technology to Lucasfilm to start a new group that eventually became the foundation of Pixar. Soon after he arrived in California, he collaborated with Jim Blinn to teach a course at the University of California, Berkeley on computer graphics (CG). Working in a new venture that was rethinking the direction of CG, Catmull was freed from many of the industry’s traditional constraints. He led the course (CS 292) with a fresh, unique perspective on the state of computer graphics. In the classroom, he explored much of the thinking that informed the basis of Pixar’s direction and technologies. 

    At the time, computer graphics was so new that CS 292 was not accredited until the last week of course, and only a small number of fortunate students discovered it. Of the lucky few, Richard Chuang, a young engineer working at Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto, was monitoring the video feed of CS 292 as part of the continuing education program. Within a year of completing the course, he applied the principles he learned there to found Pacific Data Images (PDI). 

    CS 292 was a watershed event in the history of CG, but many of the topics discussed in the course are still as relevant today as they were 30 years ago. In this fascinating journey through the history of the technologies and people behind the pixels, Catmull and Chuang use video from the course to reflect on the evolution of computer graphics – from the genesis of Pixar and PDI to where we are today.


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