Saturday May 19, 2007

Capturing the Queen and Other Hologram News

My long time friend from the hologram business, Barry Boulton, recently posted a fascinating historical retrospective on the time he made a hologram of Princess (later Queen) Beatrix of the Netherlands. It was the early 1980's when I was very active in the hologram business, and I can relate to many aspects of his enjoyable tale. He was kind to not name some names in there, though it's easy to tell who "the Company" was, having worked with them many times myself. It was an "unusual" operation, part science, part voodoo, part general insanity, but they had a unique product in demand worldwide.

I had many similar high stress moments working with them, which is partly why I can relate so well to the story. The worst moment for me was when I had a huge order for "multiplex holograms" from my largest customer in Japan. I had a letter of credit in hand for about $20,000 (which, in the hologram business at the time, was a VERY large number) with strict deadlines, and I couldn't reach the owner of the business when the holograms were due! It seems that when he got depressed, he would get in bed, turn off the phones, and stay there for 2-3 days. I got the holograms eventually but not without an undue amount of mental anguish!

Speaking of the history of holography, the definitive history was published recently, "Holographic Visions: A History of New Science" by Dr. Sean F. Johnston of the University of Glasgow. This is a true scholarly history book, published by Oxford Press. Having lived through most of the history of holography myself, it is utterly fascinating reading and a unique experience to read a history book that I was a part of and in which I knew so many of the actors. (Disclaimer: I have to admit it's pretty cool that I'm in the book too!)

Johnston's timing was impeccable. While some would say it's a bit early to write the definitive history, the other side of the coin is that many of the pivotal persons in the field have unfortunately passed away in the last couple of years (e.g., Stephen Benton, Emmett Leith, Yuri Denisyuk). Sean was able to interview all of them, fortunately, and include their personal insights and historical retrospectives in the book -- that opportunity will never present itself again. The book is extremely well written, thorough, accurate, and insightful, proving "scholarly" doesn't have to mean "boring!" If you're at all interested in the subject, get the book!

Moving from history to the present, I wanted to point out that many of the talks from the recent Display Holography Symposium in Wales are now online thanks to the great efforts of Kaveh Bazargan. If you'd like to see what's going on currently in the medium (and there are some great things happening in spite of holography's pointedly low profile nowadays), you should check out some the videos and related information.

Finally, in the just for fun category, I recently showed Martin his first "shakeygram" by another old holo buddy, Mark Diamond, and Martin got a real kick out of it. It is a pretty amusing "art form" -- here's a shakeygram of me, my wife Linda, and probably the world's greatest hologram collector, Jonathan Ross, taken at the aforementioned conference in Wales last July.

Gary, Linda, and Jonathan

Saturday Aug 19, 2006

Wales, Holograms, and The Prisoner

Hard to believe it was all the way back in October when I wrote about the upcoming (at the time) 7th International Symposium on Display Holography in Wales, UK. Amazingly, I did manage to make it there, as my wife and I used it as a great excuse to take a vacation in Ireland and Wales. As I haven't been in the hologram business for many years, I didn't sign up to attend the conference. But we did drop in for the fabulous art opening at Bodelwyddan Castle, and it was great to see all my old friends and some "old friend" holograms I hadn't seen in many years either. In the finest tradition of this event, a somewhat raucous party followed, hosted by Mark Diamond in his cavernous hotel room. Someone handed out hologram eye glasses to everyone, resulting in a rather amusing picture (and yes, my wife and I are in there if you can spot us!):

holo party in Wales

The gentleman in the front right with the brown sports coat and beard is Jonathan Ross, the leading collector of hologram art who provided many of the works for the exhibition. For more info and pics of the conference, Pearl John provided a great blog of the event. (I got the above photo from her blog -- thanks Pearl!)

There were many other highlights of our trip, but I was particularly enthralled with my visit to the actual home of The Prisoner! Perhaps you were a fan of the cult TV classic of the late 60's -- I know I was. One of the most unique things about the show was the magical setting in the "Village," and I always wondered where it was. Imagine my surprise when I was leafing through the Wales tourist book and saw that the show was filmed in Wales in the village of Portmeirion. I had to go (and dragged my wife of course), and she was kind enough to snap a few photos to record the memorable event.

So here I am in The Village! It was pretty surreal being there -- if you were a fan of the show, you'll know what I mean.

Portmerion, Wales, UK

Tuesday Mar 07, 2006

A Million Points of Light

A long-time friend and colleague from the holography business, Dr. Andrew Pepper, started a very cool project called One Million Points of Light. The idea is anyone can purchase (for a small fee) a pixel or block of pixels, color them as you like, and link them to wherever you like. It's an ever-changing and evolving new art form that the contributors create. The small fee covers the cost of the project .

Andrew acknowledges the idea came from Andrew Tew, clever (and now rich, I guess!) inventor of the Million Dollar Home Page. But this is an art-focused site, not about buying pixel sized advertisements, and Andrew certainly deserves credit in his own right for putting a unique artistic twist on the concept.

I bought a couple of pixels pointing to my old (and I do mean old) online hologram gallery, Holos Gallery Online, so I could show support for the project. (Can you find my pixels?) There've already been over 140 click-throughs to my site, so that's pretty good traffic too (though I'm definitely not in it for the money either!).

Please check it out, and of course don't hesitate to buy a few pixels to support the effort if you feel so inspired. Thanks.

Saturday Oct 29, 2005

Seventh International Symposium on Display Holography

As I mentioned back in my first posting, I worked in the holography business for many years. One of the best times ever for many of us in that field was the triennial trek to "holo summer camp" at Lake Forest College just outside Chicago. Starting in 1982, the inimitable head of the Holography Department at Lake Forest, Dr. Tung H. Jeong (known universally as "TJ") would host a unique collection of international holographic artists, scientists, inventors, and business people every three years at the International Symposium for Display Holography. We were like a close knit family at the time, as it was (and still is) a very small field when you narrow it to the "display" and art aspects. The 1982 event was a real milestone for the field, providing significant cross-pollination of ideas and techniques, as well as the start of many lifelong friendships and relationships.

I was really sad to miss the second symposium in 1985 -- something about a conflict with my wedding as I recall! However, I made it back in 1988 and 1991 and even managed to stop by (though not attend the whole conference) in '94 and '97. TJ pretty much retired after that, and there hasn't been one since.

But, it's back! Announcements went our recently for the Seventh International Symposium on Display Holography, to be held in July 2006, a wee bit further away -- at OpTIC in St Asaph, North Wales, UK. I received an email announcement recently from symosium sponsor The Holographer -- see this pdf file for more information.

Will I make it this time? It's not quite as easy to "just drop in" to Wales as Chicago, though I've always wanted to go there. Let's just say I'm giving it some serious thought. I really do enjoy seeing my old friends and acquaintances and will always love the art of holography, so I know it would be a fantastic trip and conference. Now all I need is the time and money...

If you're going, please let me know!


I helped design, build, and manage download systems at Sun for many years. Recently I've focused on web eMarketing systems. Occasionally, I write about other interests, such as holography and jazz guitar. Follow me on Twitter:


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