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  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1972 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Shaw, Wade D. (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Black and white photograph from a computer-generated image

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Computer Arts Society, supported by System Simulation Ltd, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case CAS, shelf 6

This photograph of a computer generated image was produced by Wade Shaw at the Atlas Computer Laboratory in Chiltern, Buckinghamshire. Historically, this was one of the most important computer laboratories in the world, established in 1961 to allow British scientists access to some of the most advanced computing equipment of the time. This print, along with four others by Shaw in the Computer Arts Society collection at the V&A, is a still from a computer animation entitled ‘Symmetricks’. Shaw produced this animation with the American artist and film-maker Stan Vanderbeek, whilst they were both working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) earlier in 1972.

This print was created using a spark pen – an electrical ‘pen’ capable of inputting graphical information into a digital computer using shock energy sound waves. The waves were transferred from analogue to digital information and appeared on the computer screen as a series of dots, lines and characters. Using a computer program written by Shaw, the lines were then translated, rotated and re-scaled. The data was transferred onto large magnetic tapes, which were processed to produce 35 mm film, and, using the Atlas in-house photo lab, eventually printed as full size photographs.

The computer used to create these images was called a PDP-15 and contained only 32 KB (kilobytes) of memory.

Physical description

Black and white photograph from a computer-generated image of a series of fan-like curved lines.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1972 (made)


Shaw, Wade D. (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Black and white photograph from a computer-generated image

Marks and inscriptions

Artist's name generated by the computer, in lower right side.


Height: 50.7 cm of mount, Width: 49.9 cm of mount, Height: 40.6 cm of print, Width: 39.5 cm of print

Historical context note

A version of the computer program that generated these prints was initially used to create a film at M.I.T called "Symmetricks", by Wade Shaw and Stan Vanderbeek. The film was accepted and shown at the May 1973 Cannes Film Festival's survey of recent American underground film. The New York Times printed a review of the survey on 12 September 1979, of which the V&A holds a copy.

Descriptive line

Wade Shaw, 'Helmet', 1972, black and white photograph after a computer-generated image.

Production Note

Attribution note: This print is a still from a computer animation, entitled 'Symmetricks', produced by Wade Shaw and Stan Vanderbeek at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1972. After moving to the Atlas Computer Laboratory in the UK, Shaw rewrote the computer program for the animation, in order to produce these stills.

The artist writes: "These prints were made at Atlas Computer Laboratory under the guidance of Professor F.R.A. (Bob) Hopgood, in 1972 on a DEC PDP-15 vector drawing display, and output using a Stromberg Datagraphics imaging printer which the Lab acquired to help with UK Science Research Council projects such as star field mapping, economic simulation, and computer-aided design".


Photographic paper; Mounting board


Photography; Computer animation


Photographs; Computer Art


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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