Recently, your mom told me about fish. Specifically, the fish on the carpet under this coffee table. What happens is this – you interleave different phases of fish swimming and then you have a slatted coffee table so you only see one "frame" of the animation at a time. Then, when you walk around, the fish appear to swim. It's just a really well-planned optical illusion.


What I like so much about this is that it could have been made at any time. I don't know when this technique was first invented, but there's nothing terribly complex about it. They could have made awesome animated carpets back in ancient Egypt.

spockconsoleThe oldest example of this animation that I can remember was from Star Trek. Spock had an awesome display where the pattern constantly shifted with black and white waves coming out from the center of a circle. This is another example of a moiré animation. There must have been an ancient example.

My favorite inventions by Leonardo Da Vinci were his clockwork lions. He made three of them for French royalty. They did things like rear up and then open, to display lillies. The most complex one could walk, swing its head and tail, and bare its fangs. These were all built in the early 1500's. I can hardly imagine the time and creativity required to build such a thing. 

In the late 80's, I got an early graphing calculator. I spent hours and hours and hours programming that thing to make a game on it. My first game was artillery. You'd take turns with your partner trying to figure out the angle and power to shoot a cannon over a mountain and hit the other person's base. Compared to all the computers we had lying around, writing this game for a calculator was like trying to dig a canal with a teaspoon, but it was a fun diversion. I wonder if Da Vinci could have pulled it off?



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