Stone Knives and Bear Skins

November 02, 2006

Through Andrew Dalke's blog, I came across an online museum dedicated to early molecular graphics. One section is amazing. It describes the work of Cyrus Levinthal, who in the mid 1960's built the first interactive molecular graphics system. Users viewed 3-D molecular images on an oscilloscope screen (vector graphics!), and manipulated them with a trackball-like device. The system, called "Kluge", handled both small molecules and proteins.

The computer technology of 1964 could generously be described as feeble by today's standards. Yet Levinthal was able push it to the limit to build the ancestor of systems still being developed and used. It makes me wonder what fantastic things might result if someone today took the same approach.