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

Joris van Zundert joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl
Sat Feb 20 03:29:33 PST 2021

Hi all,

I'm afraid I can't help you with the question on the etymology of vector in
computing context.

However, your question reminds me of an interrupted odyssey I have yet to
finish, which is: what is the etymology of "string" (as a name for the
primitive type of a series of characters) in computing context? If anybody
has any clues where I should look for the first use in concrete connection
to digital computing I would be greatly appreciative.

Thanks and best regards
--Joris van Zundert

On Sat, 20 Feb 2021 at 09:27, Bernard Geoghegan <
bernardgeoghegan2010 at u.northwestern.edu> wrote:

> Hi SIGCISers,
> 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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Drs. Joris J. van Zundert
Researcher & Developer in Humanities Computing

Dept. of Literary Studies
Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl


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