Detail map of Brooklyn, New York, United States Overview map of Brooklyn, New York, United States

A: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Walter Allner Designs the First Magazine Cover Using Computer Graphics

Detail of cover of the July 1965 issue of Fortune.  Please click to see entire image.

Detail of cover of the July 1965 issue of Fortune.  Please click to see entire image.

The color cover of the July 1965 issue of Fortune magazine was the first magazine cover designed using computer graphics, though the editor and designer made not have been aware of that at the time. The cover reproduced a photograph of graphics displayed on a computer screen. Two color filters made the computer image appear in color.  On p. 2 of the issue the magazine explained their cover as follows:

"This cover is the first in Fortune's thirty-five years to have been executed wholly by machine— a PDP-1 computer manufactured by Digital Equipment Corp., and loaned to Fortune by Bolt Beranek & Newman Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The myriad arrows photographed in upward flight across the machine's oscilloscope symbolize the predominant direction of corporate statistics in 1964, while the large, glowing numeral [500] represents the number of companies catalogued in the Directory of the 500 Largest Industrial Corporations. . . ."

On p. 97 editor Duncan Norton-Taylor devoted his monthly column to the cover, writing:

"In the course of events, Fortune's art director, Walter Allner, might have frowned on filling the column at left with an array of abbreviations and figures, for Allner is no man to waste space on uninspired graphics. But these figures are his special brain children. They are the instructions that told a PDP-1 computer how to generate the design on this month's cover. This program was 'written' to Allner's specifications and punched into an eight-channel paper tape by Sanford Libman and John Price, whose interest in art and electronics developed at M.I.T.

"Generating the design on an oscilloscope and photographing required about three hours of computer time and occupied Price, Allner, and Libman until four one morning. Multiple exposure through two filters added color to the electron tube's glow. . . . 

"Walter Allner was born in Dessau, Germany. He studied at the Bauhaus-Dessau under Josef Albers, Vasily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. . . . 

"Allner confesses to certain misgivings about teaching the PDP-1 computer too much about Fortune cover design, but adds, philosophically: 'If the computer puts art directors out of work, I'll at least have had some on-the-job training as a design-machine programer [sic]."

Herzogenrath & Nierhoff-Wielk, Ex Machina—Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979. Ex Machina—Early Computer Graphics up to 1978 (2007) 243.

Timeline Themes

Related Entries