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Edward Zajac Produces the First Computer-Animated Film


In 1963 Edward E. Zajac at Bell Labs, Murray Hill, New Jersey, produced the first computer-animated film, a 1.25 minute film entitled Simultation of Two-Gyro Gravity-Gradient Attitude Control System to define how a particular type of satellite would move through space. The film, also narrated by Zajac, simulated the motion and autorotation of a communication satellite as a succession of single phases.   

"Zajac programmed the calculations in FORTRAN, then used a program written by Zajac's colleague, Frank Sinden, called ORBIT. The original computations were fed into the computer via punch cards, then the output was printed onto microfilm using the General Dynamics Electronics Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm recorder. All computer processing was done on an IBM 7090 or 7094 series computer" (, accessed 01-19-2014).

In 1964 Zajac published "Computer-Made Perspective Movies as a Scientific and Communication Tool," Communications of the ACM 7 no. 3 (March 1964) 169-170. Two years later he published, "Film Animation by Computer," New Scientist 29 (1966) 346-49, which described the making of Two-Gyro Gravity-Gradient Attitude Control System. This article also incorporated illustrations from Kenneth C. Knowlton's "A Computer technique for Producing Animated Movies," AFIPS '64 (Spring) Proceedings of the April 21-23, 1964 Spring Joint Computer Conference, 67-87.  My copy of Zajac's article was reprinted as Bell Telephone System Techical Publications Monograph 5150 (April, 1966).

Franke, Computer Graphics, Computer Art (1971) 93.

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