[SIGCIS-Members] Origin of "vector" in vector graphics

Bernard Geoghegan bernardgeoghegan2010 at u.northwestern.edu
Sat Feb 20 00:27:13 PST 2021


Can anyone advise on the origin of the term “vector graphics.”

Clearly, it literally describes a production of “vectors” on the screen by a concrete line-drawing technology. However, I’m wondering if there were multiple senses in that term initially. Specifically, looking through SAGE documentation from the 1950s and 1960s, esp, accounts of if operator displays, “vector” describes the physical trajectory of planes on the display. As SAGE was also a key source for early graphical interfaces, I’m wondering of the term “vector graphics” had a double connotation, as an analogy between the flight paths and the manner of illustrating graphics.

It’s not earth shaking, but it’s etymologically neat-o if one can trace “vector graphics” to multiple connotations at its coinage.

Best, b

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