Miracle of Literacy

What comes to the history of human enterprises, there’s nothing like the one that involves conveying ideas through series of characters forming words and sentences, i.e. writing. Regardless that I love the concepts of reading and writing per se, and believe that the whole human existence actually comes down to the said practices, I’m not a huge reader (or a writer) myself. I’m more like a listener, or a spectator, who just happens to spurt every now and then something out onto the keyboard, for better or for worse.

Interestingly, regarding mediums in general, it seems to require a certain level of technological sophistication for a medium to uphold and convey legible information. Think about for instance the evolution of common paper, how much iteration it must have took before we had anything near as convenient and suitable for written communication as modern paper is.

In the same sense, when texture-mapping finally broke through into the realm of real-time imagery, the most mind-blowing aspect for me was indeed the mere idea that, for instance, in a racing game you could now read stuff out of other cars and trackside objects, instead of just watching solid rectangles to glide past. The ability to read words like “Toyota” or “Valvoline” out of objects was like an ultimate indicator that something profoundly subversive had just happened to the real-time polygon-based imagery as a medium. Stone tablets had now become, if not paper, then papyrus at least.

I’ll never forget the experience at the local arcade when I encountered for the first time Ridge Racer and Daytona USA, which were the first cases of real-time texture-mapping I had ever seen thus far in the early 90s. It was nothing short of surreal to see the graphics paradigm as you knew it to shift before your very eyes. And when I got my first texture-mapped game IndyCar Racing few years later, I remember constantly eyeing those billboards around the tracks, reading them and thinking how cool this new super-detailed “world” really was. And how there was no going back.

Yes, it really can’t be stressed enough how big of a deal texture-mapping was to real-time imagery at large. The sheer amount of visual details basically skyrocketed overnight in the wake of texture-mapping, and it’s hard to imagine a breakthrough of equal caliber happening again in any foreseeable future.