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#1
Old 03-02-2011, 09:30 PM
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Why did grids = high tech in the 80s?

Okay, so grid backgrounds were a recurring motif in 80s film and television. Anytime you wanted to represent something "high tech", you stuck it on a grid. The Airwolf intro, for example..

It's all through the Transformers cartoons and the like, too.

Why? Is it as simple as schematics and graph paper? Or is there something more to it than that?
#2
Old 03-02-2011, 09:38 PM
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Ask this kid.
#3
Old 03-02-2011, 09:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Is it as simple as schematics and graph paper? Or is there something more to it than that?
Yes, with the only addition that in the '70s, computer aided drafting was starting to reach public consciousness as synonymous with high tech - even if people generally didn't know the terminology. Computer imagery was green and griddy, that's all.

Last edited by Larry Mudd; 03-02-2011 at 09:50 PM.
#4
Old 03-02-2011, 10:20 PM
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Don't forget Max Headroom.
#5
Old 03-02-2011, 10:31 PM
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Also, every space-themed LEGO set in the '80s.
#6
Old 03-02-2011, 10:36 PM
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The holodeck on the Enterprise. The holosuites on DS9 looked like car audio demo rooms at Best Buy or something.
#7
Old 03-02-2011, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Munch View Post
Haha, I remember that background. I probably picked it in elementary school.
#8
Old 03-03-2011, 05:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Mudd View Post
Yes, with the only addition that in the '70s, computer aided drafting was starting to reach public consciousness as synonymous with high tech - even if people generally didn't know the terminology. Computer imagery was green and griddy, that's all.
The public you dealt with was more advanced than the public I dealt with... (small wonder, mind you; Spain spent the 70s discovering that he hadn't left things as tied-down as he'd thought, specially women's tops).

I just checked and AutoCAD's first version is from 1982. By that time I'd been taking Draftsmanship classes for three years, and we had to use the most ink-spreading paper known to man; the translucid non-ink-spreading paper wasn't acceptable until 10th grade (schoolyear 1983-4 for my cohort). Rotring pens were acceptable in 12th grade - and boy did we jump on them, the 12th graders from the Applied Sciences track buying their Rotrings were the closest thing to invading barbarian hordes my little town had seen since the 5th century, and the show was on every September.

Anybody you saw with graph paper was on the Sciences track, about half of us were the future Engineers and Architects. I got to use it in 10th grade Math (to draw trigonometric functions), again in 12th grade Draftsmanship (the same functions, but this time inked) and again in college (1st year Numeric Calculus, 1st year Christalography).

Draftsmanship used to be Architecture's Killer Subject. There were universities whose 1st Year Draftsmanship exam lasted 3 days, with students being allowed to leave and come back (there was no direct access to the toilets from the examinations room) and to bring food, drink and sleeping bags. There were 5th Year students who had passed every subject except that bedamned 1st Year Draftsmanship, and they couldn't start their Project (think a "Design-based Thesis") until they'd passed every single subject. In some universities, one of the exercises from that exam was done on graph paper.

Now when did I see someone from Humanities, Social Sciences or Biological Sciences with graph paper... *thinks* *thinks some more* *gets a headache* Oh, wait: never after 10th grade Math.

So yeah, graph paper = tech.

Last edited by Nava; 03-03-2011 at 05:33 AM.
#9
Old 03-03-2011, 05:37 AM
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Yeah, I have noticed the phenomenon myself. My favorite example of this is the opening credits to Disney's The Black Hole, 1979. Great music as well.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=cxWCH...eature=related

Last edited by Icerigger; 03-03-2011 at 05:37 AM.
#10
Old 03-03-2011, 05:41 AM
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Grids meant high-tech because they suggested wire-frame 3d computer graphics.

I guess nobody back then realized computers would very quickly become powerful enough to put UV skins on those 3d models.
#11
Old 03-03-2011, 05:58 AM
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Grids represent dimensional planes, and vector graphics represented current, and therefore future, tech, in a stylised shorthand.

Grids are still used that way, but are more sophisticated and dynamic.
#12
Old 03-03-2011, 07:01 AM
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Don't forget Tron,
... and Luke's computer screen in his X-wing when he destroys the Death Star.
#13
Old 03-03-2011, 08:27 AM
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Escape From New York had a grid shot which was made by hand - glow in the dark strips were taped onto the edges of model buildings made out of black cardboard.
#14
Old 03-03-2011, 09:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
The public you dealt with was more advanced than the public I dealt with... [..] I just checked and AutoCAD's first version is from 1982.
I didn't mean to suggest that saw this type of imagery and said "Oh, that's computer aided drafting," but CAD has been around since the '60s, and by the '70s there was even 3D CAD - still in the realm of high, high tech. By the time the eighties started, most people had seen gee-whiz news items about CATIA, and how the Mirage fighter was designed entirely in a computer. The look of this sort of software penetrated the public imagination as "high tech computer design stuff" long before CAD was available for mere mortals with PCs.

Last edited by Larry Mudd; 03-03-2011 at 09:04 AM.
#15
Old 03-03-2011, 09:07 AM
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My favorite example of this is the cartoon M.A.S.K.'s intro.

It's computery!
#16
Old 03-03-2011, 09:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kim o the Concrete Jungle View Post
Grids meant high-tech because they suggested wire-frame 3d computer graphics.
Yes, in the 80s, I took a course in computer graphics at my university. We used Silicon Graphics Iris workstations which were fairly cutting edge at the time. The graphics that it could render in real time were wireframe (grids). You could also add surfaces, textures, light, and shadows but that was slower because it was computationally expensive. An Xbox can do decent 3D graphics in real time because computers are so much faster now.
#17
Old 03-03-2011, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Bosstone View Post
My favorite example of this is the cartoon M.A.S.K.'s intro.

It's computery!
God what a kick-ass song that was!

Also - what was that stand-up arcade game in the 80s that had the tank sights that you stood up into and could look around? It had a 3D(ish) wire-frame environment.
#18
Old 03-03-2011, 09:35 AM
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Battlezone!
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#19
Old 03-03-2011, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icerigger View Post
Yeah, I have noticed the phenomenon myself. My favorite example of this is the opening credits to Disney's The Black Hole, 1979. Great music as well.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=cxWCH...eature=related
One expects no less than great from John Barry.
#20
Old 03-03-2011, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Bosstone View Post
My favorite example of this is the cartoon M.A.S.K.'s intro.

It's computery!
I had totally forgotten that show. There goes my weekend.
#21
Old 03-03-2011, 11:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bosstone View Post
My favorite example of this is the cartoon M.A.S.K.'s intro.

It's computery!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
I had totally forgotten that show. There goes my weekend.
I loved that show. About 6 months ago my mom was going through stuff in her garage and found some of my brothers and I old toys and in them were three MASK vehicles. Now my 6 year old nephew plays with them.
#22
Old 03-03-2011, 12:03 PM
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I had the Firebird-looking thing that a motorcycle dropped out of. It was A.W.E.S.O.M.E.
#23
Old 03-03-2011, 12:09 PM
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Oh my god, I was certain I'd be the only one who remembered M.A.S.K. That was the best 80s cartoon period.
#24
Old 03-03-2011, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
I had the Firebird-looking thing that a motorcycle dropped out of. It was A.W.E.S.O.M.E.
This one!
#25
Old 03-03-2011, 12:44 PM
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Another example: check the end of this 1980 Datsun (Nissan) ad. Grid *and* a wire-frame car!
#26
Old 03-03-2011, 01:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Except for the lead character's totally kick-ass car-to-plane, which hybrid vehicle would you prefer?

Car-to-motorcycle
Motorcycle-to-helicopter
Jeep-to-boat
Annoying Robot-to-moped
Motorcycle-to-submarine
Helicopter-to-fighter jet
(There were also some stupid pickup-to-slightly taller pickup, big rig-to-rocket launcher vehicles that didn't pass my stringent filter.)
#27
Old 03-03-2011, 01:14 PM
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I had all of them.

Sorry, I seem to have lost track of the thread subject...
#28
Old 03-03-2011, 01:58 PM
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Heh. I sent that MASK link to my husband, and I think it made his day.
#29
Old 03-03-2011, 06:33 PM
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Also, please remember that 70's sci fi was all about hexagons.
#30
Old 03-03-2011, 06:47 PM
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All I know about MASK I learned from Robot Chicken. Seriously, I was too young for the show, though I did have a hand-me-down MASK lunchbox for some reason.
#31
Old 03-03-2011, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Bosstone View Post
My favorite example of this is the cartoon M.A.S.K.'s intro.

It's computery!
I loved those fucking toys. Loved them.
#32
Old 03-04-2011, 12:10 AM
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I remember *not* liking M.A.S.K. for some reason (I was right in the sweet spot age-group at the time), but I can't remember why exactly. It was a hoot when I saw that episode of Robot Chicken where they made fun of M.A.S.K., I kinda felt like my youthful snooty-ness against it was justified.

Getting back to "grids", don't forgot that in Tron all the poor blue programs got sentenced to "the Game Grid" by Sark and the MCP.

I also remember that when arcade games "rebooted" (if you hit them just right or you unplugged them to clear the high score), the initial screen boot-up screen was often a grid.
#33
Old 03-04-2011, 12:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icerigger View Post
Yeah, I have noticed the phenomenon myself. My favorite example of this is the opening credits to Disney's The Black Hole, 1979. Great music as well.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=cxWCH...eature=related
From the comments:

"But think of it - an entire film, made just out of computer graphics. It'd be awesome, and perhaps in my lifetime such a thing will come to pass."
#34
Old 03-04-2011, 12:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bosstone View Post
My favorite example of this is the cartoon M.A.S.K.'s intro.

It's computery!
I love how the computer grid effect is so clearly hand-drawn. Because, of course, hand drawn was cheap than having a computer do it.
#35
Old 03-04-2011, 08:33 AM
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I distinctly remember seeing the Battletech cartoon for the first time and thinking how amazing it was that the parts which were supposed to be computer graphics were actual computer graphics.
#36
Old 03-04-2011, 09:25 AM
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It was in the 90s, but Homer ended up in a 3D world one time with a grid.
#37
Old 03-06-2011, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by fiddlesticks View Post
I also remember that when arcade games "rebooted" (if you hit them just right or you unplugged them to clear the high score), the initial screen boot-up screen was often a grid.
I believe that was a testing diagnostic, to make sure the screen didn't have any distortion issues or anything funky going on. If you see a grid made up of a bunch of squares, all is well. If any of them are squished, or bent, or whatever, it probably needs maintenance.
#38
Old 03-06-2011, 06:01 PM
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Because it implies super high tech three dimensionality in cinematographic and computer terms. A sort of cybernetic net of CGI. They were easy to make with early graphics programs, and really, what has enhanced the reality of cinema more in the last 30 years than CGI? CGI is the real three dimensionality of cinema, not the current 3-D optics fad. They were also often done in contrasting colors.... my favorite computer graphic technique is to use shades of blue and red layers... sometimes in the purples to give depth and life to static objects (but that was more of a late 90's graphic technique)

Last edited by devilsknew; 03-06-2011 at 06:02 PM.
#39
Old 03-06-2011, 07:14 PM
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As kind of an aside, it's easy to forget how fast CGI has advanced within the past decade and a half. (For me it is, anyway.) I was watching the first Toy Story last night and was startled at how washed out and artificial the skin tones looked (especially Woody's) and how primitive and doll-like some of the human faces appeared.
#40
Old 03-06-2011, 07:58 PM
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One of the difficulties they had with Toy Story 3 was maintaining the appearance of all the toys and characters so it felt familiar, while still employing all the advances in art and technology they'd made in the intervening years.

You can sort of tell that young Andy, in the sequence at the start of TS3, looks somewhat different, yet still the same.
#41
Old 03-07-2011, 08:15 AM
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I remember one of my '80's high school yearbooks uses a variation of the grid graphic. It was all over our trapper keepers, ripped-shoulder sweatshirts, and other school gear we just had to have.
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Last edited by Hypno-Toad; 03-07-2011 at 08:15 AM.
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