Early Raytracing History

Even though the BRL-CAD computer aided design package has a very long development history by the standards of most modern software, it is actually the latest in a line of raytracing systems dating back to the 1960s. Much of that history is documented in technical reports from the Ballistic Research Laboratory (later the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.) A first hand account of Richard Hoyt's earliest work on vehicle shotline calculations by Davidson C. Hardison can be found in ARL-SR-90, starting at the bottom of page 29. Although the report does not explicitly date Hoyt's work, from context it appears to have taken place in the mid to late 1950s. This account details what may very well be the first true raytracing of a geometric model, done quite literally by hand! Although not computerized, this work appears to be the original foundation on which all of the Ballistic Research Laboratory's subsequent computerized raytracing systems were designed - if anyone knows more about this very early work and whether any records of it still survive, the BRL-CAD developers would be quite interested to see it!


MAGIC

The very first computerized raytracer at BRL was the MAGIC system, developed by Mathematical Applications Group, Inc. (MAGI) in the mid 1960s for the Ballistic Research Laboratory. Richard Hoyt is listed as BRL's technical supervisor on the project. MAGI later went on to play a significant role in the commercial development of CGI. The seminal report detailing this work is "A Geometric Description Technique Suitable for Computer Analysis of Both the Nuclear and Conventional Vulnerability of Armored Military Vehicles," published in 1967. It was not approved for public release until much later, and hence is relatively obscure despite its historical importance in the field of computer graphics.

The other significant sources of information known to exist about the first MAGIC system are a set of manuals prepared by the Joint Technical Coordinating Group for Munitions Effectiveness (JTCG/ME) in 1970-71 and the proceedings of the first (and apparently last?) conference held for the users of the MAGIC and SAM-C codes in 1971.

Report Title Number Date
A Geometric Description Technique Suitable for Computer Analysis of Both the Nuclear and Conventional Vulnerability of Armored Military Vehicles MAGI-6701 1967
MAGIC Computer Simulation - Volume I. User Manual 61 JTCG/ME-71-7-1 1970
MAGIC Computer Simulation - Volume II. Analyst Manual Part 1 61 JTCG/ME-71-7-2-1 1971
MAGIC Computer Simulation - Volume II. Analyst Manual Part 2 61 JTCG/ME-71-7-2-2 1971
The First Conference of Users of the Magic and SAM-C Programs AD728124 1971

(Note: Subsequent reports mention something called the SHOT GENERATOR Computer program that appears to date to around the same period as MAGIC, but I currently have no information about this code, the JTCG/ME reports that document it, or what role it played - it is referenced as an influence in the GIFT code design, so more information (if available) would be interesting.)


GIFT

Geometric Information for Targets (GIFT) succeeded MAGIC as BRL's primary raytracer. By 1975, the first volume of a GIFT user manual had been published documenting the new system. The second volume followed in 1979.

Report Number Date
The Gift Code User Manual. Volume I. Introduction and Input Requirements. BRL-1802 1975
The Gift Code User Manual. Volume II. The Output Options. ARBRL-TR-02189 1979


Unlike MAGIC, which apparently lasted only a couple years, GIFT was in production use at BRL for a long period of time. Consequently, there are a significant number of reports that detail uses of the GIFT system and the development of solid modeling at BRL during the GIFT years.

Report Number Date
[MIFT: GIFT Combinatorial Geometry Input to VCS Code.] ADA037898 MAR 1977
Combinatorial Geometry Computer Models of Sitting and Standing Crew Personnel ARBRL-MR-03125 AUG 1981
COM-GEOM Interactive Display Debugger (CIDD) ARBRL-TR-02574 August 1984
A Combinatorial Geometry Target Description of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) BRL-TR-2686 October 1985

BRL-CAD

The final transition from GIFT to BRL-CAD was accomplished in (??). A number of reports in this era deal with solid modeling as a technique more than the specifics of BRL-CAD vs. GIFT, and so may reasonably be regarded as applying to both.

Report Number Date


Other Early Computational Analysis Efforts

The Air Force's MAGIC System

Although it is not a direct ancestor of BRL-CAD, Bell Aerospace was also developing an early computer based analytical system in the late 1960s and early 1970s for the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory called MAGIC:

Report Summary
MAGIC: An Automated General Purpose System for Structural Analysis. Volume 1. Engineer's Manual
MAGIC: An Automated General Purpose System for Structural Analysis. Volume 2. User's Manual
MAGIC: An Automated General Purpose System for Structural Analysis. Volume 3. Programmer's Manual
MAGIC II: An Automated General Purpose System for Structural Analysis. Volume 1. Engineer's Manual (Addendum)
MAGIC II: An Automated General Purpose System for Structural Analysis. Volume 2. User's Manual
MAGIC II: An Automated General Purpose System for Structural Analysis. Volume 3. Programmer's Manual
MAGIC III: An Automated General Purpose System for Structural Analysis Volume 1. Engineer's Manual
MAGIC III: An Automated General Purpose System for Structural Analysis. Volume 2. User's Manual
MAGIC III: An Automated General Purpose System for Structural Analysis. Volume 3. Programmer's Manual