Fun Plotting

We did early computer graphics at Livermore. (1957) Someone, from the Atomic Energy Commission objected that that was not what computers were for. There was a puritanical tinge to his plaint. A quick and easy calculation showed that the cost of the computer drawing the picture was a small fraction of the cost of some person drawing the image. And that even ignored the potentially avoided substantial cost of printing out the numbers from which the drawings would be made. He clearly did not like that argument but I think the issue did not go further. We were subsequently careful to describe our imagery as a cost saving strategy. The point is that the computer brings the efficiencies of digital electronics as well to the task of plotting, as to the task of computing.

A decade later we had a printer that printed 7 pages per second. A year after that some structural engineer warned that the office building with the physicist’s offices was beyond its weight design limits due to the collected printouts saved from previous simulations.

There seemed to be occasional bean counters from the AEC and other .gov sorts wandering around trying to make sure that we were not having too much fun. They failed. Livermore had a habit of always having some low priority job to run on otherwise idle machines. This was not a Los Alamos habit. The benefit of our habit was slight. Once we learned that one of these visitors had noted that Los Alamos, in contrast to Livermore, let its computers sit idle.