Friday, July 13, 2007

Scanimate

Scanimate is an analog computer system that was built by the Computer Image Corporation of Denver, Colorado in the late sixties and early seventies. In all only eight machines were ever produced. It was used on many famous jobs over the years, and many of the people that were involved with its development, operation, and care and feeding have gone on to do significant things in a variety of places all over the world. Dave Seig's website is a real treat and a reminder of how innovative engineers had to be before digital framestores were possible. Many thanks to my old mucker Saul Budd for putting me on to this.
It reminded me of the BBC Anchor caption machine that was an electronic analogue video caption generator. By generating shaped wipes (in much the same way as an analogue vision mixer works by using line and field rate waveforms to create circular, square, etc. shaped wipes) with variable voltage offsets to position them the machine was able to make letter shapes and hence words (and even whole lines of text!). Being an analogue machine it drifted and so the kerning between letters would change and even the size of characters changed over the duration of the programme (requiring the operator to keep his eyes on things!).
Now when I started at the Beeb in the eighties people still commonly referred to electronic caption machines as 'anchor' (the news studios all shared an 'anchor lobby' which at that point is where the Aston 3 operators worked). I never saw a working example but ironically some programmes still used real artwork captions (scanned on Sony DMX3000 cameras).

1 comment:

Kev King said...

sounds like something that needs to be at http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/edu/collect/computer.rhtm