New book explores history of visual magic in computers

Jon Peddie connects the 3D geometry of ancient Egypt to today’s special effects in movies and games.

cda_displayimageIf you have ever looked at a fantastic adventure or science fiction movie, or an amazingly complex and rich computer game, or a TV commercial where cars or gas pumps or biscuits behave like people, and wondered, “How do they do that?” you can now satisfy your curiosity with The History of Visual Magic in Computers by distinguished computer graphics analyst, Dr. Jon Peddie. The heavily illustrated full-color book will be released June 30 by Springer.

Computer graphics is used in a wide variety of industries, from automotive design, to movies, architecture, games, molecular design, and simulation/visualization of imaginary worlds and atomic bombs. “In tracing these wondrous and exciting discoveries, I had to delve into seemingly obscure items and events,” says Peddie. The foundation of today’s amazing visuals is 3D geometry, so Peddie begins the story with the first major 3D implementations—the pyramids, and ends with the implementations we know today: tablets, 3D movies, and mobile games.

3D in computers began as a way to represent automotive designs and illustrate the construction of molecules. 3D graphics use evolved to visualizations of simulated data and artistic representations of imaginary worlds. In order to overcome the processing limitations of the computer, graphics had to exploit the characteristics of the eye and brain, and develop visual tricks to simulate realism. The goal is to create graphics images that will automatically overcome the visual cues that create and cause disbelief that tells the viewer this is not real.

“Thousands of people over thousands of years have developed the building blocks and made the discoveries in mathematics and science to make such 3D magic possible,” says Peddie. “This book is dedicated to all of them and tells a little of their story.”

The History of Visual Magic in Computers traces the rise of early computer graphics companies as DEC, Burroughs, SGI, and others, and shares how the technology from those companies found its way to today’s leaders including AMD, Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Sony. “Although no one event or trend was directly representations of the use of 3D, each laid the foundation for the development of using 3D in computers,”

From the Cold War to the movies

“Though the Cold War was the primary catalyst for it all, it’s impossible to trace a single line of development to generating beautiful realistic images with a computer,” said Peddie. “There is the complex pedigree of computer itself;, the basic math, the display and its controller, the software algorithms used to generate curves and textures, and the applications that tie all this together.”

Written in a narrative style with ample references for those wanting to dig deeper, The History of Visual Magic in Computers traces the earliest understanding of 3D and then foundational mathematics, to explain and construct 3D, from mechanical computers through tablets. Several of the most amazing computer graphics algorithms and tricks came during periods where new ideas and techniques seem to erupt all at once, all stimulated by the Cold War. When the fundamentals of how to draw lines and create realistic images becoming better understood, more sophisticated applications emerged. That in turn led to hardware 3D controllers that drove the sophistication of the display all the way to stereovision, virtual and augmented reality. This book is a historical and visual treat with some amazing images.

The History of Visual Magic in Computers can be ordered on

The History of Visual Magic in Computers is also on Amazon:

Amazon UK: $29.99 eBook, $44.99 Softcover

Amazon US: