What SIGGRAPH means to me in 1 hour. (Exercise #1)

I have attended 12 SIGGRAPHs. I did visit the show floor in 1982, but that does not count.

1986 was in Dallas. I got totally immersed in the world of Computer Graphics after spending almost six years in the CAD industry. I learned about Splines and B-Splines from Barsky, Beatty & Bartels, heard Turner Whitted talk about Toy Tracing, about how PCs were going to change graphics - nobody believed him - at least not me.

My next SIGGRAPH was in Boston - home town. The icon for SIGGRAPH89 was the lobster and the teapot. The teapot is of course the icon of 3D computer graphics, popularized by Jim Blinn, originally created by Martin Newell at Utah. It now lives in the Computer museum. The lobster is probably the most famous early volume rendering data set. And of course Boston is famous for the Tea Party and lobsters.  This was the SIGGRAPH that  PEX hit the larger radar.

1989 marked the coming of age of the graphics supercomputers: Stellar, Ardent, Apollo, and SGI all had machines to were moving on to 100K Gouraud shaded triangles. It was also the big bang year for volume rendering, but, that was at a small symposium. SIGGRAPH is not a small symposium.

The following year I had booth duty for the first time. No longer a civilian, my job was to answer as few questions as possible and point everyone, especially the better dressed ones to marketing people or senior management. The SIGGRAPH show floor can feel like a circus. Lots of vendors trying to get your attention: loud, gaudy and appealing. Most booths have a least one booth bunny, a very congenial young woman to get your name & information and anything else that will help the company decide if you are a “good lead”. Some of the booths are filled with the next wonders - big flat screens, 3D scanners, force feedback mice, new modeling or rendering software straight from research, and certainly not  least - super fast computers doing new and more things with graphics. The good ones have shows that involve standing in line, getting on a mailing list, listening to a sales pitch, but they usually deliver a glimpse of the new plateau of realism in Computer Graphics.

The main raison d’etre for SIGGRAPH is mind candy. Getting published in SIGGRAPH is the ultimate for being recognized as having a cool new idea, especially a rendering idea. Sitting in technical session after technical session, letting new ideas wash over you head, or getting more of a foothold on last years new ideas, that is the ultimate for seeing where computer graphics is going.

Of course, there are old friends and colleagues you only see at SIGGRAPH. Also, over the years, you get to know some very intense like minded people. Friends that you know in certain ways that you know no one else - by your Intellectual & CG passions.

1-JUL-2001, YON - Jan C. Hardenbergh.