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You know, as digital artists we have some amazing tools available to us to help bring our imaginations to life.

The latest graphic tablets (now affordable for most anyone,) matched with the latest high-definition screens (displaying billions of colors,) connected to the latest computers (whose size are measured in inches and not feet,) all to render work near instantaneously. It's hard to imagine that with what we have today, publishers and artists were using these same types of devices as much as 40 years ago to set type, scan images, or even draw pictures.

So if you were an artist in the late 1970's, what would it have been like?

Well, click here (or above) to watch a video to get a bit of an idea.

If that's anything to go by, straight-up drawing was still a little out of reach. But you could scan drawings, save them, view them on a screen, scale them, and print them. Since everything you were saving was on a tape, loading times were slower than the page being printed from dot-matrix printer. You'd only have 8 to 16 colors max to work with. Also you'd get a severe neck cramp because you'd be looking at a monitor about 4 to 5 feet above you to do your work, apparently.

In the late 1980's to early 1990's, things improved a lot. How improved?

Watch this other video to see a Quantel promotional video about their new tablet series.

(By the way, you're allowed to laugh at the hilarious editing in that video -- it's pure gold.)
Monitors were still really small, (while the tablets were huge,) but they could render 256 to thousands of colors. The move to hard drives instead of tape media meant you could store and load your work faster. (But as these hard drives were measured by the megabytes, you could store a whole 100+ full size(?!) images!!!)

You also would have had an undying fondness for the Airbrush tool. (If it wasn't airbrushed, it wasn't art.)

Things had improved enough to the point where tablets were losing their wires, and software was getting more complicated to support things like copy/paste, and pressure sensitivity. Photoshop was brand-new to the market, but wouldn't receive layer support (and therefore become relevant) until 1994. Therefore, companies like Quantel had their own hardware and software bundles that were specific for making images and layouts. Our modern-day tablet+computer setup is derived from Quantel's design.

At one point or another, this stuff was all mind-blowingly state-of-the-art. I bet it would have been hard for artists during that time to imagine what we have now as a reality. Much in the same way how I have ideas on where we'll be in another 30 years with this stuff, but I'll probably be amazed at the progression still, anyway.

"Guys, remember when we used to draw on/with LCD screens?"
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PeterPancreas Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2012  Student Filmographer
Thank you man! All your material is great!
MattTheShy Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I am always amazed with advancements in technology. There's no way I'd be able to deal with my screen all the way up there.

Also, you second link is broken
Jehrico Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2012
I hope you dont mind, i shared this Journal with my Graphic Design class, its a very interesting read
colorsoftuesday Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2012
Aw man, the Quantel video has expired. I'm so curious as to the wonderful graphics I'm missing out on xD
Brother-Tico Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2012  Professional Artist
Wow! This is amazing!
Dieman Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The second video has expired... Can't view it now!
Varethane Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012
Hehe... fun stuff! Technology moves along so rapidly, it's pretty crazy to think about the things we take as commonplace today and how totally out of reach they would have seemed to people even as little as 10 years ago.
nokari Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Professional Interface Designer
I remember my first Photoshop. It was all in black and white.
meganok Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is enlightening! For anyone who feels like the technology today is limited, they need to be shown these videos. I was getting kind of annoyed at the designer in the first video. When she made the clipart I kept thinking, "why aren't you trying harder??" Even with the limited technology the ad could have ended up looking much better, methinks.
Thanks for sharing! :heart:
icelandicishnese Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012
interesting stuff, it's amazing to think of how far back we were technologically only 40 years ago.
Carsist Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Professional Interface Designer
I love the way that they presented the information in these videos :D
and it was really fascinating to learn more about the history of the technology itself!

The first one, I loved the music and the almost timeless way that they presented the information. But one small ad on magnetic tape!!?? Oh how far we have come.

The second one, I just simply adored how epic they made the technology out to be. I mean these days no one outside of the industry cares at all and our work has become readable, easy and rather cheap by other industry standards. But in that video, I only wish I was making more at my job knowing my skill set and what I can do as a designer, but eh. what can you do?
Dieman Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I liked how they were so excited about what was coming the next year, in 1978! They were like "yeah, the future is coming next year" kind of. It's like... wow. Tape drives.
monikoko Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012
It's amazing and very interesting to see how artist did handle things back then. Thanks for sharing.
What I dream of in the future is where you have flatter pens, or even realistic brushes. the tablets would catch the texture of the pen or brush and could imitate the realistic paint. I know today you can do it too but it takes more technical knowledge and sometimes tilting the brush is hard.(Though I saw some brush that did tilt itself - i don't know how to do it in PS CS4, tho...)
Anyway, combining traditional with digital is very interesting to me and it would be great if you could combine them perfectly.
Anmaril Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
A interesting feature, thanks for sharing!
ThornedVenom Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Somewhere in the future, looking back at present day: "Hah, look at those poor chumps with their non-haptic "tablets" on "HD" screens! How on Earth did they ever make artwork back then with only RGB?"
yakkingyetis Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012
amen .
ahmettorun Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Professional General Artist
Yay! Thanks for this informative post.
IPPO-Lita Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Student General Artist
Very interesting & informative. Thanks!
Danny-Haymond-Jr Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Awesome post!
Lightning-Powered Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2012  Professional General Artist
I remember the first art I made digitally was with Bitmap. I still have some of those in my gallery in case you're interested. It's all the way in the back though....

I sure am glad technology only gets better with age. :|
Shaish Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2012
The future is laughing at us I know it.
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Submitted on
July 27, 2012


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