Ariel - Early Australian Computer Graphics and Systems

Computer Design and Computer Video Graphics

Ariel was an early Australian pioneer in computer design, computer graphics, computer arts, and hardware development.

Ariel began building electronic projects, such as a Wein bridge sinewave oscillator and a Theremin electronic musical instrument, in the late 1960's. He continued his work in hardware for the next four decades. His work with software also began in the 1960's, and continued until 2013.

He joined the experimental video collective Bush Video in late 1973 after meeting them at the fourth Aquarius Festival in Nimbin, New South Wales.

Ariel's aim was to explore image synthesis and manipulation through electronic means. To accomplish this he taught himself computer design and computer graphics, working in both hardware and software development, initially on his IMSAI 8080, later upgraded to a Z80 microprocessor with more RAM and twin floppy disc drives.

In the early 70's he also worked with Doug Richardson at the University of Sydney's Basser Computing Center using a PDP8 and associated equipment to create video graphics- and sound-related projects.

In 1975 he worked at City Video and The National Resource Centre (later to become Metro TV, then Metro Screen until closing in 2015, at Paddington Town Hall in Sydney), two of the newly established Video Access Centres. Others were begun in Adelaide and Melbourne. Still more followed. These centres were part of the community-based Public (now Community) Broadcasting Association (CBAA), primarily for community radio, but also incorporating the video (TV) access centres.

In 1976 Ariel worked as a trainer in video production in the Open Program at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). At this time he also became involved with microcomputing (the newly "democratised" and accessible "home" or "personal" computer) and started programming, with a focus on graphics.

An article he wrote for Access Video magazine in 1979 outlines his interests at the time.

Ariel's IMSAI system configuration in 1979:

  • IMSAI Microcomputer
  • 4 MHZ Z80 CPU
  • 20 Slot S100 buss chassis
  • 32 KBytes Static RAM
  • 3 - 256 x 256 x 1 bit resolution Matrox video boards
  • CPM O/S Software for the above system was created in Z80 assembly language, in various flavors of BASIC and the Stack Language 3 (a version of the FORTH).

In the 1980's he then became, as he described it, trapped in the "digital hellworlds" of early hardware and software. At this time worked for organisations such as Computerland, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and later at Leisure and Allied Industries (a video game company that ran a lucrative national chain of video arcades called TimeZone), and other related companies.

While developing video games and hardware for clients, he used some of the proceeds to fund development of his own computer system, the Z80-based Shadow Microcomputer System in 1982, one of the first personal computers made in Australia.

Ariel also designed and managed the Gleebooks Online Bookshop (now on a Business Catalyst Content Management System [CMS]) from the mid 1990s to 2012.

His final creative work concentrated on photography and digital manipulation, programming the Propellerhead Software's Reason and Reaktor musical system software blocks (including, among other things, to drive a light show linked to the music), working with Wolfram's Mathematica, and also providing algorithms, models, patches, and sounds to Reaktor, Mathematica, and similar projects' shared online app, content, and software libraries.

Scanlines: Media Art in Australia Since the 1960s also mentions Ariel and his work, and is used in other references in this site.

Video Art 1970s

Mirrored Blocks video graphic 1975 - Ariel

Ariel computer graphics PDP8

Video graphic on PDP8 1976 - Ariel

Ariel Imsai and floppy drives 1975

Pre-Shadow IMSAI rig

Video Access Mag 1979

Video Access Magazine article 1979

Ariel graphics squares

Computer graphics 1979 - Ariel

Shadow Micro Systems Computer 1982

Shadow Micro System box 1982