In the early 1960s computers were still in their infancy, and access to them was very limited.
Computing technology was heavy and cumbersome, as well as extremely expensive.
Only research laboratories, universities and large corporations could afford such equipment.
Many of the earliest practitioners programmed the computer themselves.At this time, there was no 'user interface', such as icons or a mouse, and little pre-existing software.By writing their own programs, artists and computer scientists were able to experiment more freely with the creative potential of the computer. One of the main sources of output in the 1960s was the plotter, a mechanical device that holds a pen or brush and is linked to a computer that controls its movements.In the 1950s, many artists and designers were working with mechanical devices and analogue computers in a way that can be seen as a precursor to the work of the early digital pioneers who followed.One of the earliest electronic works in the V&A's collection is 'Oscillon 40' dating from 1952.
The artist, Ben Laposky, used an oscilloscope to manipulate electronic waves that appeared on the small fluorescent screen.
An oscilloscope is a device for displaying the wave shape of an electric signal, commonly used for electrical testing purposes.
The waves would have been constantly moving and undulating on the display, and there would have been no way of recording these movements on paper at this time.
It was only through long exposure photography that the artist was able to record these fleeting moments, allowing us to see them decades later.
Laposky photographed numerous different combinations of these waves and called his images 'Oscillons'.
The earliest photographs were black and white, but in later years the artist used filters in order to produce striking colour images such as 'Oscillon 520'.