Quantel’s Paintbox: The Computer Which Influenced The Masses.
Forty years ago, British company Quantel introduced a graphics computer which everyone has seen the images it created but few even know its name. The Paintbox was the first real time, full color digital paint system, running on proprietary hardware and controlled by a patented pressure sensitive stylus and tablet. There was nothing like it and it quickly became the industry standard across the world, despite a $250,000 price tag.
If you saw a weather map, news graphic, TV commercial or music video in the 1980’s and into the 90’s, it was highly likely that it was created on the Quantel Paintbox. Its crisp bright colors influenced aesthetics and its ability to digitally manipulate images laid the foundations for how we now visually accept the things we see on our screens every day. The Paintbox kickstarted the Photoshop Era, nine years before Adobe released Photoshop 1.0 and set off a chain of patent battles which would ultimately end in forcing Quantel to relinquish their digital domination. As artist David Hockney noted when creating his “first coloured glass drawings” on a Quantel Paintbox in 1987, “It is a new media, I have no doubt about it”.
Adrian Wilson is considered the first photographer to specialize in manipulation of images using a digital paint system. He began using a Quantel Paintbox in 1986 and his work was commissioned for 1980’s record covers, featured in Cleveland Gallery’s 1988 Art & Computers show and used in the 1989 Siggraph essay “Does ‘Computer Art’ Still Exist?”. Wilson had a 6 week solo show of his 1980’s Paintbox work at Blackpool School of Art earlier this year and owns one of only five Paintboxes in N. America, which has recently been restored to full working order.
Wilson will guide us over zoom through the Paintbox’s fantastic but unknown history, its technical and creative background, plus the plans for the future.
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