As someone who is relatively reliant on technology to make a living, I am always fascinated to find out more about the history and workings of the innovations that have shaped modern society. A lot of the time this results in watching videos about all sorts of technological subjects, especially when they relate to matters of design. While this knowledge may be appropriate pub quiz fodder, I can understand there isn’t really much reason for the majority of people to find out more about this kind of stuff. However, I think it’s important that people realise just how much we owe to creations such as Sketchpad.

While technology in a broad sense does interest me, I think that actually witnessing how it has evolved is more exciting than anything else. I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a time of such rapid technological development, and while it may have enormous downsides, I truly love how technology offers almost boundless opportunities to learn and create. Of course, I have a pretty significant bias being someone who earns money through creativity, but working with technology that enables me to create images, design websites, and communicate easily is more than enough reason to show my appreciation.

None of this would be possible were it not for one very important ancestor of the technology we are so familiar with now. Sketchpad was a program written by Ivan Sutherland in 1963. This award winning program was a huge breakthrough in computer graphics and showed how vast the potential was for both technical and artistic work on computers.

The program enabled users to map lines and shapes on a screen while also being able to adjust specific constraints. This is, in many ways, the foundation for the majority of creative design tools that now exist. However, the program was also unique in the fact that it used a complete graphical user interface. While it may seem basic now, this was achieved through the use of an x-y point plotter display and a light pen.

I wouldn’t say it’s unreasonable to assume that this information may not be particularly exciting to lots of people, but it is still incredibly interesting to watch video footage of Sketchpad being demonstrated. You can see exactly how this creation drove forward the development of the technology that we now frequently take for granted. I have no doubt in my mind that many of the things I do on a day to day basis have been influenced greatly by Sketchpad.

While it may be easy to forget how much impact inventions such as this have had on contemporary society, we should recognise just how much we owe the people who made them possible. Equally, we should continue striving to create things that will have the same level of impact on our future.