larry cuba

Just dug that one up from my bookmarks—back in the 1970s Larry Cuba, then at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), made the computer graphics seen during the endbattle against the Deathstar in the original ‘Star Wars’ (Lucas 1977).
    When I first saw those animated 3D line-graphics in the cinema in ’77 I was fascinated.
    Three years later, at the first computer-christmas, I got a Commodore 64 (C64).
    With a freely programmable computer at my hands I set out to recreate those graphics. For a start I was content with the idea of an anmation simulating the flight down a duct represented by rectangles. I remember cooking up an algorithm with pen and paper. The idea was to have the computer fill the screen with ever smaller rectangles, nested into each other. Then the machine should erase those rectangles and replace them with rectangles one pixel larger. That way the illusion of travelling down a corridor would be created. Letting my mind’s eye travel through my jotted down algorithm I saw that it would really achieve the desired effect. So I proceeded to code it into the machine … writing the program in the BASIC language that came with the C64! Oh, yes, you coding geeks, I can hear you laughing :-)
    For those who can’t yet anticipate what happened: Once the program was finished, I typed ‘RUN.’ The screen went black. The writing disappeared, that is, ’cause the screen on the C64 was already black by default anyway. Then a white dot appeared at the upper left corner of the screen. After a while another dot joined the first one, together already forming a tiny line. And so on. The term ‘slow motion’ can’t grasp what happened. I stared in complete disbelief. At that speed it would take a day and a night until the screen would be filled with the first set of nested rectangles. You can’t imagine my frustration and disappointment.
    Thus ended my promising career as a 3D-game-engine developer, was stopped cold at the age of twelve.
    I still have my C64 and all the 5 1/4” floppy disks, although it is not sure if they’re still readable. Once I will fire up the machine again and try to resurrect my old program—for the lulz.
    On the other hand … if I run the program not on the C64, but within a C64-emulator on a contemporary machine, clocking the emulator up to some GHz, maybe I finally will fly down that duct!

LUCAS, GEORGE WALTON. 1977. Star Wars [motion picture]. Century City: 20th Century Fox.
Share