6.1. Introduction.   

The following is a short history of raytracing and teapots. It has deliberately been kept short. There are many sources available giving more in depth descriptions and histories of computer graphics and raytracing.

6.1.1. Ancient History   

In Greece, circa 500 BC, there was a group of natural scientists called the Pythagoreans; named after their founder Pythagoras. By todays standards they would be seen as just a bunch of secretive religious mystics. However, they contributed much to mathematics, music and astronomy. Pythagoras is best known for his theorem that the sum of the squares of the two sides in a right angled triangle equals the square of the hypotenuse.

Another lesser known theory of the Pythagoreans was that the way we see the world was by projecting light rays from our eyes out into the world. If one of these rays should hit an object, we would see it. Even though the theory is basically wrong, they were able to derive a law of reflection; that the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence. It doesn't matter that the rays are going backwards for reflection to work.

The Pythagoreans' most closely guarded secret was of a fifth regular solid; the dodecahedron. Common knowledge at the time had the count at only four - one for each of the four elements of the universe; fire, water, air, earth. The dodecahedron was seen as beyond the material, as super-natural. Plato, around 100 years later, made the dodecahedron public, and the five are now called the Platonic solids.

6.1.2. Recent History   

For many centuries, it was thought that there were only five of these regular solids. But in 1975, Martin Newell revealed his discovery of the sixth; the teapotahedron. It is speculated that it represents those regions of space-time where all high order activity is suspended and only low order chaotic brownian motion can occur; tea breaks.

I personally suspect that this was just the first indication of a new mystic resurgence in the computer graphics upper echelon. Is there a new sect of Pythagoreans? New evidence to support such an outrageous claim surfaced in 1980. Turner Whitted introduced a "new" rendering technique at the Siggraph convention; a notorious grouping of deviants and outcasts. He called it raytracing.

In 1985, Curtin University caught the disease and implemented raytracing in a program called, surprisingly, Raytrace. Dave Eddy was the first to be afflicted. In 1986, it spread to Julie O'Connor who completed the initial set of object representations. In 1987, Andrew Hunt got it "real bad" and improved rendering speeds for large numbers of objects with 3D- DDA. Also in 1987, Leigh Smith fixed some bugs and added more textures. Phil Dench may plead "mea non culpa" but he is culpa indeed! And Andrew Marriott, project supervisor, has dipped his oar in a few times.