Digital Experiment at Bell Labs

1966-67 (circa), 4 min, b&w, silent

Using Bell Lab's pioneering research facilities, Paik creates a starkly minimal experiment in computer imaging, in which a shifting dot appears on a black ground.

A. Michael Noll, a researcher and Professor Emeritus at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California, wrote of his experience working with Paik at Bell Labs, then one of the premiere research facilities in the world, in the late 1960s: "Paik visited me at Bell Labs...and I taught him the basics of computer programing using the FORTRAN language. This probably took a day or so, since Paik already had some knowledge of electronics and mathematics. I also created a small account for him, so that he could use the computer facility at Bell Labs, and he was off on his own."

"[Digital Experiment at Bell Labs] shows a dot (a single pixel) that jumps randomly along a diagonal line. There is text that appears at the end, but that most likely is some sort of data dump from the computer and was not programmed by Paik. The word HEAD flashes at one point; the plotter would have created it to indicate the beginning of a movie strip of film."

"The FORTRAN program to create this movie would have been quite short. A subroutine would be used to give a random number within a specified range. A fixed number would be added and the result used as the X and Y coordinates of the point to be plotted. All this would be repeated within a couple of DO loops, with each frame sent to the Stromberg-Carlson SC-4020 microfilm plotter to create the movie."


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