The world’s oldest computer animation: Kitty…

by N. N. Constantinov,  V. V. Minakhin and V. Yu. Ponomarenko. I was pleased that the subject of the first computer animation was a cat, but then, as you can tell from my posts, I am more than a little prejudiced. Beyond the inconsequential fact of the animation’s subject, however, I found it fascinating that it took a team of Russian physicists and mathematicians to accomplish, undoubtedly with great effort and expense, what a child can accomplish now with only minimal training. Their aim, of course, was not to create a cartoon. To quote Constantinov: “Our work is planned as a trial step in the direction of the creation of the programs, which simulate the mechanisms of movement.”

Again quoting Constantinov concerning the method used: “The artist- mathematician must write down the characters of this piece in the form of our, or some similar, information system, along with their motions – in the form of differential equations. Then the machine prints a paper tape – “[papirfilm]”. After this, the artists sketch on [papirfilm] the cartoon. Thus, as before the spectator will see the hand of the artist. However, the sense of this, in the fact that the simulation of motion is made by a machine – this is exactly that part of the work which the man manages badly.”

While crude, perhaps, by today’s standards, the resultant animation was a marvel and a triumph 43 years ago, in 1968 when it was created.

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