AuthorTopic: The History of Pixel Art  (Read 140316 times)

Offline Cure

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The History of Pixel Art

on: February 02, 2016, 12:21:22 am
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3rd millennium BCE
The first mosaics appear in Mesopotamia. The art form would reach new heights with the Greeks beginning in the 4th century BCE.

A cave canem (beware of dog) mosaic from Pompeii, 1st century CE

3rd century BCE
The date of the earliest tapestries, products of Hellenistic Greece.

A section of the oldest extant European tapestry, the Överhogdal tapestry, created between 800 and 1100 CE, during the Viking Age.

2nd century BCE
The date of the earliest cross-stitching.

Nazca cross-stitch sampler, Peru. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

modern example of cross-stitching: McCall's Pheasants pattern 114-T from the 1970's

c1500 CE
Wampum belts are made by the Eastern Woodland tribes or North America. The shell bead creations were used as a form of gift exchange and certificates of authority, and were later used by Europeans as a form of currency.

Reproduction wampum belts at the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario

Renaissance needlework patterns predict pixel art.

Pattern found in Les Singuliers et Nouveaux Pourtaicts, Federico de Vinciolo, 1589.

Colonial American furniture employs a decoration strikingly similar to modern pixel art.

American music cabinet with dyed wood inlays, c.1875, collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts

Neo-Impressionist movement founded by Georges Seurat, featuring the Pointilist and Divisionist techniques.
La Dance by Jean Metzinger, 1906 ; Parade de Cirque by Georges Seurat, 1887-1888

The first card stunt is performed by students of UC Berkeley during a rugby match against Stanford University, building on fabric stunts between the two teams dating back to 1904. in 1922, The University of California, Santa Cruz performed the first animated crowed stunt.

Example of a modern card stunt at North Korea's Mass Games

An electronic CRT television demonstrated by Philo Farnsworth in San Francisco, based on the work of Farnsworth, Vladimir Zworykin, Boris Rosing, and many others.

Farnsworth holding a Cathode Ray Tube beside an early electric television

The term “Picture Element” appears in books by H. Horton Sheldon and Edgar Norman Grisewood and is used by RCA researcher Alfred N. Goldsmith.

Russell Kirsch creates the first digital image, a 176x176 px image of his son with a bit depth of 1 bit per pixel. Shades of gray were made possible by combining scans made at different thresholds.

Peg boards for plastic bead designs are patented, popular today as a method of recreating video game sprites.

George H. Heilmeier invents the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD). The technology improved and became more widespread in later decades, and pixel artists responded by adjusting their techniques to address the improved picture quality.

The term “pixel” is coined (picture element) in SPIE Proceedings articles by Fred C. Billingsley of Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and begins propagating within the image processing and video coding field.

Hasbro's Lite-Brite hits toy store shelves.

Atari releases Pong, the first commercially successful video game

SuperPaint is released, a pioneering graphics program and framebuffer computer system. SuperPaint was one of the first to use a graphical user interface and anti-aliasing, and was developed Richard Shoup at Xerox PARC.

Atari 2600 debuts in North America

Congo Bongo, 1983

Taito releases Space Invaders, the first blockbuster arcade video game, responsible for starting the golden age of video arcade games.

Susan Kare creates Apple icons

The term “pixel art” is coined by Adele Goldberg and Robert Flegel of Xerox PARC.

The Commodore 64, ColecoVision, and Sinclair ZX Spectrum debut

Sword & Sorcery, unreleased 1983 demo

Trantor: The Last Stormtrooper, 1987

Turrican, 1990

Zaxxon, the first isometric game, debuts

Pole Position debuts at the arcade as the first 16-bit video game

Amstrad CPC is released, joining the C64 and ZX Spectrum in the battle for the 8-bit home computer market.

Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior (Death Sword in the US), 1987

The BBC's Micro Live  features an interview with pixel artist Lauretta Jones. You can find my 2018 interview with Lauretta on PixelJoint.

Early demoscene groups form, like The Judges and 1001 Crew (originally 1001 & the Cracking Crew) working with the C64. According to foundering member Honey (Joost Honig), "[t]he words Cracking Crew [were] inspired by the break dance group Rock Steady Crew and was later imitated by many groups."

Commodore Amiga, Atari ST released

Flashback, 1992; Shadow of the Beast, 1989

Chaos Engine, 1993, by acclaimed developer The Bitmap Brothers.

DeluxePaint released on the Commodore Amiga. The DOS version would become the standard for pixel graphics in the 1990s.

Famicom (NES) debuts in Japan

Super Mario Brothers, 1985

TurboGrafx-16 is released, marking the beginning of the 16-bit era of gaming (though the console still uses an 8-bit CPU)

The Legendary Axe, 1988

SEGA Mega Drive (SEGA Genesis in North America) is released in Japan

Sonic the Hedgehog, 1991

Nintendo Game Boy released in Japan and North America

Pokemon Red, 1996

Atari Lynx is released in North America, the first handheld console with a color LCD.

Batman Returns, 1992

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) released in Japan

Chrono Trigger, 1995

Street Fighter II is released, reviving the arcade industry to a level of popularity not seen since Pac-Man, and beginning the renaissance of video arcade games

SEGA Game Gear debuts in Japan.

The Hagenuk MT-2000 debuts with Tetris installed, becoming the first mobile phone to feature a video game.

Metal Slug debuts at the arcade

Pixel art group eBoy is founded. The often-published group would become known for its clean style, pop culture influences, and massive isometric scenes ("pixoramas").

Snake, perhaps the most popular early cell phone game, is released on the Nokia 6610. It is also the first multi-player cell phone game, by way of the nokia's infrared port.

Game Boy Color released worldwide

Star Ocean Blue Sphere, 2001

Game Boy Advance released worldwide

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, 2004

Pixelation/Way of the Pixel created

Cave Story is released for the PC by Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya. This one-man project popularized a simple style of pixel art that made it easier for smaller indie teams to create the graphics for an entire game. Influences on the graphical style include Shigeru Miyamoto's 1981 Mario sprite (then known as Jumpman).

PixelJoint is created, and soon becomes the most popular online pixel art gallery.

The massively popular video game Minecraft is released, introducing a new generation to pixel art techniques on a global scale.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is released, popularizing a new style of pixel art that mixes retro nostalgia with filters, lens flares, and other newer techniques.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2021, 09:58:07 pm by Cure »

Offline Ai

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Re: The History of Pixel Art

Reply #1 on: February 02, 2016, 01:38:43 am
Nice list.
TIL the term "card stunt".

A few suggestions:

* Amstrad CPC was also released in 1983. IMO this is more notable than say, the TurboGrafx-16 -- though the later 1990 'CPC+' attempts at modernizing were not really notable at all.

* The "Ultimate" (company that would later become Rare) isometric games [Knight Lore, Alien 8, ..]  might warrant a (collective) mention, as they seem to have inspired a good number of other so-called "Filmation" style games . This article lists some of them.
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Offline RAV

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Re: The History of Pixel Art

Reply #2 on: February 02, 2016, 02:28:34 am
Oh hey, good stuff.

Maybe mention Lego, it's suitable for doing pixel art, pretty sure some people did, and it's kinda between mosaic and Minecraft, and another example for a physical incarnation of pixel art even in modernity, as well as gamified pixel art.

Hrrm, also, this might be a stretch but... hrrm... Rubik's Cube left a lasting impression in the world, as pixel puzzle.

And more practical, you might wanna mention printers, along screens, they work pretty much the same, point for point.
They too demonstrate the modern need for the pixel principle in even physical form.

I'm not sure about some of the other modern physical gimmicks are noteworthy yet, what's with that Perler Bead and stuff, hrrm.

Could also mention the first popular 3d games that used pixel art in form of sprites and texture.

It's kinda difficult to differentiate, between who is worth mentioning as being the first, and who is the one with the biggest cultural impact in popularity, though. Aside from those first 3d games, Minecraft for example didn't invent its principle, but it should be on the list all the same as it was by far the most successful. There was Infiniminer before it, that inspired it, but I wouldn't even say Infiniminer was the first either. Hrrrm. But those two were maybe the first to connect that block principle to pixel art directly.

« Last Edit: February 02, 2016, 05:48:31 am by RAV »

Offline RAV

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Re: The History of Pixel Art

Reply #3 on: February 02, 2016, 02:49:21 am
oh and, maybe mention the "renaissance resurrection" of pixel art on mobile phone platform, after it seemed almost obsolete at a time, because phones made a reset on the hardware race. And make the most recent conclusion the Indie Games scene, where it lives on not for technical necessity anymore, but as a practical development with aesthetic appreciation.
Not sure if that is too general, though? But sounds like an important shift worth mentioning maybe.

« Last Edit: February 02, 2016, 02:53:36 am by RAV »

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Re: The History of Pixel Art

Reply #4 on: February 02, 2016, 03:49:45 am
These kind of Vari-Vue images ("lenticular images", "flicker stickers" and also called "flicker rings"), come to mind as well. This one is particularly pixel art like:

When I was a kid I took the plastic screen off of one of those things and used to pixelize pictures with it; so it might just be the riged texture making them seem like they're pixelated; interesting nonetheless.

Offline Tourist

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Re: The History of Pixel Art

Reply #5 on: February 02, 2016, 05:34:07 am
Under mosaics you might also include micro mosaics.

"A distinctive feature of micromosaics is that the tesserae are usually oblong rather than square.[7] The best work can achieve 3,000 to 5,000 tesserae per square inch. The best collections are in the Hermitage Museum and the Gilbert Collection in London. Asia has produced a number of contemporary examples using modern precision machinery to produce the diminutive elements."

Other sources on micro mosaics indicate common densities of 1000-2000 mosaic tiles per square inch.  That's like working at 2x on a 72dpi monitor.  5000 tiles per square inch mentioned on Wikipedia is like working at 1x.  But they were working with bits of glass and doing it by hand.

Edit: Is it work mentioning dithering?  Wikipedia says dithering for reducing visual noise goes back to the 1970s or earlier, but dithering for approximating colors has to go back to early color printing efforts.  Halftones and Ben-Day dots from the 1880s, the latter widely used in early color comic books.

« Last Edit: February 02, 2016, 05:44:34 am by Tourist »

Offline RAV

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Re: The History of Pixel Art

Reply #6 on: February 02, 2016, 06:56:16 am

even though it's a bit of an off-shot:
maybe mention the game Go, the most fundamental, many say the ultimate game, one of the oldest, maybe the oldest board game, and it is literally pixel art...

Offline RAV

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Re: The History of Pixel Art

Reply #7 on: February 02, 2016, 07:42:15 am
Sorry, spammy, but about Lego:

Now the important thing to realize about Lego is, it's not the blocks that are the equivalent to pixels... it's the little connection knobs on top that hold them together! Those are the pixels! and what are the blocks then? right! Clusters! Those little knobs are the regularly spaced standardized pixel grid that hold the cluster blocks together. That's it, the magic! Look at it! Really gotta put Lego in that list.

Offline Cure

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Re: The History of Pixel Art

Reply #8 on: February 03, 2016, 12:37:39 am
Thanks for the feeback y'all.

@Ai: Added a line for ultimate/filmation, as well as the vital CPC
@RAV: Good point about the perler beads. Plastic bead grids AND lite-brite have been added to the list.

still reading into vari-vue and the cellphone era.

Offline Cyangmou

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Re: The History of Pixel Art

Reply #9 on: February 03, 2016, 12:40:55 am
Maybe add classic gameboy / game boy advance release dates as well?
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