Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Entertainment/2013 May 21

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May 21[edit]

Gekkou Kamen[edit]

From 00:02 to 00:04, there's a biker's animation shown on some sort of a matrix display.

  1. How did they do it?
  2. How did they came up with the idea of matrix display in 1958?

The display seems to be made of light bulbs. I guess it was installed in a baseball field. However, without a computer, how did they make it display animation?

Certainly you can use a mechanical device, such as a punch card reader or something like the music box or player piano to control the matrix display. However, light bulbs do not last very long when you switch them on and off repeatedly.

Did people have this kind of primitive matrix display in 1958? -- Toytoy (talk) 08:52, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

You don't need to have a computer to have digital technology, and engineers of that era were wizards at building sophisticated control systems with electro-mechanical components (relays, steppers, and related gadgets). The complexity of a short animation on a few hundred cells is less than the existing automatic telephone exchanges in use at the time (e.g. 5XB switch). The sweet-spot for feeding the system a series of animations might still be Hollerith cards, or perhaps punched tape. Either way, an electromagnetic system like this would be a big rack of noisy stuff, and would require an operator to feed it a different sequence for each animation. A matrix display is a pretty logical consequence of existing loom technology (dating back to Jacquard, and by the '50s capable of some very sophisticated patterns) once you add bulbs, and I don't think these animations are asking too much of bulbs - decorative bulbs for things like fairgrounds, indicator lights, and automotive turn flashers too, have to do tens or hundreds of thousands of cycles. -- Finlay McWalterTalk 16:22, 21 May 2013 (UTC)
Well first modern "computers" came out in the late 1940's, and by the 1950's dozens of UNIVAC systems had been installed throughout Europe & the US with languages such as FORTRAN not only being used but being improved in what today we might call "open-source" ways. As far as the actual graphics though about 8 years after this show was aired engineers were are the cusp of extremely complex algorithms for displays such as the Westinghouse Sign(s):
Market St.⧏ ⧐ Diamond Way 17:39, 21 May 2013 (UTC)
Graphic lighting displays for outdoor advertising date back as far as 1905, apparently. See exhibits 11 and 14 here. Textorus (talk) 21:13, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

Didn't mean to change the topic to exterior lighting displays, while my example of the Westinghouse Signs were indeed outdoor I was answering OP's questioning if the "matrix"/computer technology existed circa mid-century. The Wikipedia article on the Westinghouse Signs goes into how shortly after OPs film example was produced technology did exist to sequence or graphically matrix signs:

. . . one element at a time would be lit, the number of possible sequences is simply:

90! = (90•89•88•87...3•2•1) ≈ 1.486 x 10138, or 1.486 quintoquadrogintillion. (The exact value is 1 485 715 964 481 761 497 309 522 733 620 825 737 885 569 961 284 688 766 942 216 863 704 985 393 094 065 876 545 992 131 370 884 059 645 617 234 469 978 112 000 000 000 000 000 000 000.)

Such a number may be incomprehensibly huge. If the Big Bang is reckoned to have occurred 13.8 billion years ago,[11] there have been "only" about 4.35 x 1017 seconds since the birth of the universe. It is estimated that the Earth is made up of roughly 5.5 x 1050 atoms; the number of atoms in the Milky Way Galaxy is approximately 5 x 1068, and the number of atoms in the universe is estimated to be 3.5 x 1079.[12][13]

However, the sequences programmed into the sign's controller suggested to some that the possible total was guided by one or more patterns (e.g., the same element--perhaps the bar below the W--would be lit in each of the nine units, working either left to right or right to left, followed by all nine instances of a second element, and so on, until all ten elements in all nine units were lit). It became a sort of mathematical puzzle to determine what the total number of sequences would be, given these (imagined) patterns.

For the smaller three-unit signs, the number of possible combinations under the "one at a time" scenario would have been:

30! ≈ 2.653 x 1032, or 265.3 nonillion. (The exact number is 265 252 859 812 191 058 636 308 480 000 000.)

Market St.⧏ ⧐ Diamond Way 22:43, 21 May 2013 (UTC)