NASA's Voyager Visualisations and the Origins of Computer-Generated Imagery


The thing I liked best from James Blinn were his dancing equations, both in Project Mathematics (Episode 1: Similarity - Project MATHEMATICS! - YouTube) and in The Mechanical Universe (Episode 1: Introduction - The Mechanical Universe - YouTube).

These seem like they must have been some inspiration for Grant Sanderson’s Manim.


One of Jim Blinn’s many inventions, The Blobby Man, played a part in the early days of AutoCAD: we used this hierarchically-defined mannequin in images and animations to demonstrate the 3D modeling capability of AutoCAD and in conjunction with AutoShade and AutoFlix to make rendered images and animations.

In 2020, nostalgia motivated me to give the Blobby Man a Second Life in the metaverse, both as a sample hierarchical object definition in Fourmilab Mechanisms and stepping out on the town as the Fourmilab Blobby Man Avatar.

Source code for the Blobby Man Avatar is available on GitHub.

(I modified Jim Blinn’s original Blobby Man by adding an extra blob and joint to separate the pelvis and abdomen in order to better conform with the skeleton rig used by Second Life avatars and animations.)

The original definition of the Blobby Man is in “Jim Blinn’s Corner”, IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, October 1987, Page 59, reprinted as chapter 3 of Blinn, Jim. Jim Blinn’s Corner: A Trip Down the Graphics Pipeline. San Francisco: Morgan Kauffmann, 1996. ISBN 978-1-55860-387-5.