Afterwords: threads to explore


In the process of compiling this collection, we had to put aside many interesting pieces, so here are some things to explore on your own.

We look forward to your comments, ideas and additions for the next round of conversations. Do not hesitate to mail us on !

The Never-Before-Told Story of the World's First Computer Art

Cathode ray tube screens and the non-rasterized display of curves (Pin-up apparently drawn without curve).


Curves seem more close to source code than a digital photograph or a scanned image. In contrast with bitmapped images, curves can be losslessly reworked and edited; derivative works are made at the same level as the original work. From the perspective of Free Culture, we prefer sharing curves.

Modelling (Girls and cars)

Further interrogate the relation between cars, software and gender.

Those bright reflections are not just innocent dream images. Glamorous cars sell the idea that exclusivity, advanced technology and speed are linked to excitement, respect and success. For a community energized by sharing, mixing and exchange, to identify with such over-engineered proprietary status symbols is bordering on perverse. It means negating everything that makes Free, Libre and Open Source software desirable.

Femke Snelting, Modelling (Girls and cars), Libre Graphics Magazine, 2013

First curve on a computer screen?

Marvin Minsky, 1960, at MIT confused the y and y' axis. The legend goes that this lead to the display of the first curve on a computer screen. Minsky later used his mistake to develop a full program of visual display, MinskyTron. Hackers positioning themselves again the bait of the unified technical environment and promote the reversibility of technical objects, transgressive usage and modularity.

Insert brought by Antoine Gelgon in 2016

Paul De Casteljau

Read and comment Paul De Casteljau’s autobiography: My time at Citroën

Computed type

Explore research by Christoph Knoth. It has many references to the early history of vector tools.

A (partial) list of vector editing softwares

Draw up a list of vector editing softwares, and map out their differences and similarities.


Understand more about and experiment with NURBS (non-uniform rational B-splines)

Blender catalog of curves

Twisting: A 3D Curve has Control Points that are not located on the Curve’s local XY plane. This gives the Curve a twist which can affect the Curve normals. You can alter how the twist of the Curve is calculated by choosing from Minimum, Tangent and Z-Up options from the drop-down menu.


Speculation 1

Question the point-and-click model. What are different selection systems and how interfaces to it are or not another way of drawing, sometimes curves.

Speculation 2

Figure out whether the way points are represented is or is not influencing the global perception of curves on screens. Try different tools, and tell the story of the process. Re-use the same drawing, maybe the canonical Tiger. and

This tiger is often used to test vector tools and formats. It seems to have been drawn on development version of Illustrator 1.0.


All plotters. From the most refined cnc to the crudest diy ones build with three old cd-players. The beginning of a list with ductus comparisons, fueled with HP-GL.

Here a Roland drawing the evolution (different ductus) of the & and g glyphs during an OSP performance.

Drawing machines

All drawing machines. The website contains a long list of machines for which inventors convert mathematical drawings for different curves into mechanical apparatus, like affinographs, or conchoidographs, or helicographs, and spirographs (we've all loved at least when children), but also like the different flavors of harmonographs-pendulographs. In this serie, the integraphs, dedicated to draw integrales with first prototypes in early nineteen century and industrialised a bit less that hundred years after, guide the eyes to the ∫ symbol of mathematical integration, presenting itself like a clothoid curve.

Curves as optimisation

Aircraft navigation systems, probably heavily constrained by legitimate safety concerns, are very slowly passing from radial geometrical logic to waypoints and curves in between, removing "seams" in the 3D paths followed by planes. See an article about "After the Map", a book by William Rankin and "The future of the NAS" (National Airspace System) by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States.

In the motoring field of the aircraft realm, following, "thrust vectoring, also thrust vector control or TVC, is the ability of an aircraft, rocket, or other vehicle to manipulate the direction of the thrust from its engine(s) or motor(s) to control the attitude or angular velocity of the vehicle."

Julian Herzog (Website), CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Objects vs. lines

Understand better the difference between vector 'objects' and (curved) lines.

Paths represent the geometry of the outline of an object.” He read the sentence over and over again but could not grasp what exactly bothered him. The document itself was clear and crisp as ever, and the standard it represented could still change the future of the World Wide Web. They had developed a lightweight, scalable vector format, a language for describing two­dimensional graphics. It opened up the kind of applications he had been dreaming of since the early nineties and he sometimes felt frustrated that their work wasn’t embraced with more enthusiasm. But he had also been around long enough to know that a good standard did not necessarily mean it was going to be implemented just like that. “Paths represent the outline of a shape which can be filled, stroked, used as a clipping path, or any combination of the three.” His pencil drifted over the paper. It all came down to objects in the end. It was as if they had betrayed the line.”

Femke Snelting, Scenes of Pleasure and Relief (2008)


"Pace" is an artwork by the artists Simona Denicolai and Ivo Provoost composed mainly by a collection of floating-letters-in-the-wind vector drawed prints . Each buyer of an edition receives an email containing a text that is able to act as an hybrid svg file working in four different modes : as a certificate, as a vector file capable to render a large part of the artwork when renamed with the ".svg" extension, as the text of the free licence permitting to redistribute it and including the copyright of the three authors, and as commentary/manual to explain how the different part are articulated.

Drawing knots planarly

In some situation, interrupting curves is a way to let the flow without discontinuity. Full atlases are filled with these drawings in torsion, and softwares try to balance elastic tensions and flux.

Art nouveau and the chicotte

In "Art Nouveau, Art of Darkness: African Lineages of Belgian Modernism, Part I", Debora L. Silverman analyse the visual links between the chicotte used by the colonizers of the Congo at the end of the 19th century and the fibrous plant forms with sinuous and taut curves designed by Henry Van de Velde and other Art Nouveau architects.

Wild curve


p is for process
w is for writing
written by hand, w forms not one but two buttocks
processed by computer, w has the shape of roads
you see,
curves are the only matter

Madeleine Aktipi, Peewee