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In what may very well be the world’s first computer-generated animation, this video shows the motion of a box-like “satellite” orbiting a rotating sphere… Pixar, eat your heart out.
Created in 1963 by Edward E. Zajac, a programmer at Bell Labs from 1954 to 1983, the animation was made to demonstrate a theoretical satellite that used gyroscopes to maintain an Earth-facing orientation. Only a year after the launch of Telstar 1, the world’s first communications satellite (which just had its 50th anniversary) Bell Labs was very much invested in the development of satellite technology.
According to the description on the ATT Tech YouTube channel:
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.
I’d like to say that many Bothans died to bring us this information but… well, I guess I just did.
Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center in Warren, NJ. H/T to Paul Caridad at VisualNews.com.