Carl Machover

March 26, 1927March 5, 2012

Carl Machover, computer graphics pioneer, dies at 84.

Carl Machover, a computer graphics pioneer and graphics "evangelist", died Monday, at his home in White Plains, NY, after a prolonged illness. He was 84. Trained as an electrical engineer right after World War II, Machover began his career in an era when computers occupied entire rooms while lacking even basic visual displays. “Computer graphics are the cure for no known disease,” he liked to joke, alluding to his uphill battle to convince companies that better graphical interfaces would deliver value. A sought-after public speaker, he combined his engineering knowledge with business savvy to champion full-color, real-time graphics displays for everything from complex scientific data and architectural design to computer-animated movies – a vision he lived to see turn into reality many times over.

Born in Brooklyn to Rose and John Machover, Carl was three when the family moved to Davenport, Iowa. After graduating from Davenport High School, Machover enlisted in the Navy during World War II, in the Eddy radar and radio program. Following the war, he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, under the GI bill, where he majored in electrical engineering. In Troy, he met his future wife, Wilma Doris Simon, a budding concert pianist, then still in high school but soon to be a student at The Juilliard School in New York.

Machover went to work at Norden Laboratories Corporation in White Plains, NY, and published the primer Basics of Gyroscopes (1960), a classic that combined lucid scientific description with witty hand-drawn cartoons intended initially for the Norden sales force. He then moved to Skiatron Electronics & Television Corporation where he helped form a subcontractor RMS Associates to build and market CRT character generators. RMS later changed its name to Information Displays, Inc. (IDI) and created the stand-alone computer-aided design (CAD) platform the IDIIOM (IDI Input-Output Machine). IDIIOM had its own operating system based on the Varian 620-I computer, a DEC PDP competitor. In 1976, he left IDI to form Machover Associates Corp (MAC), a computer graphics consultancy which became known internationally for providing a broad range of management, engineering, marketing, and financial services to computer graphics users, suppliers, researchers and investors.

A tireless evangelist for computer graphics, Machover served as President of Art & Science Collaborations, Inc. (ASCI), the National Computer Graphics Association, the Society for Information Displays, and Computer Graphics Pioneers. He also worked on the editorial boards of many industry publications, wrote and lectured world-wide on all aspects of computer graphics, and was guest editor of special computer graphics art issues of Computer and Graphics and the IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. He received the North Carolina State University’s Orthogonal Award, the NCGA Vanguard Award, and was inducted into the FAMLI Computer Graphics Hall of Fame. He was appointed an Adjunct Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his alma mater. Machover authored the C4 Handbook, CAD/CAM Handbook and Computer Graphics Handbook, and co-executive produced a 90-minute film documentary, “The Story of Computer Graphics” for SIGGRAPH in 1998, when he also served as History Chair. He advocated for women in computer graphics and for computer graphic arts. While professing to be unable to carry a tune, he was a constant fixture at the concerts and lectures given by his wife, a noted piano teacher.

The website of the European Association of Computer Graphics reflects the esteem in which Machover was held by his colleagues around the world: “A man of charm, wit, integrity and authority. His words carry weight; the weight that comes from a lifetime of experience and reflection. He has an eye for detail and illustration through the carefully selected example. He is also a man of vision and foresight. His lectures are always a careful balance of reflection on the past, experience of the present and vision for the future.”

Machover inspired deep and lasting affection among his many admirers. Andries van Dam, Professor of Computer Science at Brown University, fondly recalled “his infectious optimism and goodness, his raucous laughter and great raconteurship, his incredible gift for cartooning that he could have turned into a profession,” and marveled at the Machovers’ 61-year marriage as a “role model of utter devotion and abiding love.”

The vast personal collection of papers amassed by Machover is now housed at the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota. The Institute notes: “This is a large and unique collection of rich archival materials providing unparalleled documentation on the emergence of computer graphics.”

Machover is survived by his wife Wilma; son Tod; two daughters, Julie Anderson and Linda Samuels; and seven grandchildren, Hana and Noa Machover, Ryan, Allegra and Halle Anderson, and Allison and Cassie Samuels.

The funeral service will be held on Thursday, March 8, at 9:30 AM, at Kol Ami-Shulman Chapel in the Woods in White Plains, NY. Shiva/Visitation on March 8 after burial until 8:00 PM and Sunday, March 11, 1:00-5:00 PM, at the home of Carl & Wilma Machover.



  • Funeral Service Thursday, March 8, 2012


  • Burial

Carl Machover

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David Harris

September 2, 2012

So sorry to hear of the passing of Carl.
In the late 70's and 80's along with "Chase" Chasen we spent many happy times together "on the road" lecturing at numerous universities. Carl was always a bundle of energy and fun. In my mind I can hear his laugh even now.
It's fair to say the Carl did much to bring computer graphics and CAD to the forefront.
I learned much from Carl and yes he will be missed.

m c

March 15, 2012

I am so sorry, ...
Thank you Carl for all your work.
- m

Pio Barone Lumaga

March 13, 2012

I like to think that Carl, smiling unencumbered, now draws with clouds, waves and winds.

Barbara osherman

March 11, 2012

Dear Wilma and family--I am Carl's cousin. I am so sad to hear of his passing- Carl always had a special place in my heart from the time I was a very young child--He was a delightful baby sitter and enjoyed teasing me--He also was a great help to me when I was having problems dealing with a cousin and knew I was having a difficult time. I remember his wonderful humor and laughter and will always think of him with love----Barbara Osherman

Michael Johnson

March 10, 2012

Carl invited me to speak at NCGA many, many years ago. He was a delightful man, and was extraordinarily generous to me with his time and attention.

He leaves a legacy of many fond memories from those of us in the Computer Graphics field. He will be missed, and fondly remembered.

Michael B. Johnson (Pixar)

jeff arnst

March 9, 2012

Dear Wilma
I first meet Carl 30 years ago while working in the CAD industry. Since them we had many great times together, often sitting on the same panels and at the same conferences. I fondly remember a conference at Couer d'Alene where he asked me to speak at the last minute, and I played a joke on him, then we had a great cruise with you and my wife on the lake.

He was a great man, and always giving of himself and always ready with a smile. I cherish my memories of him, and wish you and your family my deepest sympathy.

Martin Machover

March 9, 2012

Dear Wilma and Family,
A few years ago, because of my interest in both the Machover geneaology as well as in the accomplishments of those who bear our name currently, I registered for Google Alerts under the heading of Machover. I was deeply saddened by today's entry when I learned of Carl's passing.
I have wonderful memories of that
all-too-short period of time, a few years ago, when my wife, Sue, and I got to know you.
We cherish those memories and will always remember Carl as a brilliant, personable, and kind man.
To paraphrase Will Rogers, Carl - I am sure - never met a man who didn't like him.

Peter McHugh

March 8, 2012

Dear Machover Family,

I came across this news while on vacation in Florida. Tod, Julie, and Linda, I remember you with great fondness from many, many years ago.I was your Social Studies teacher at Highlands School. I wish you all my deepest sympathy.

Jacqueine Karaaslanian

March 8, 2012

Dear Tod,
It is with incredible sadness that I just read the news of the passing of your dad. My heart is with you, June, Hana, Noa, your mom and siblings and the entire Machover family in this very painful times. If the physical presence of your father is no longer here, the feelings of love never go away. I am sure that he is with you and that you will continue to feel his love, care and inspiration.
My sincere and deep condolences,
Jacqueline Karaaslanian (Yerevan, Armenia)

Deb Sherr

March 8, 2012

Carl was one of my dad's dearest friends, in whom he found a computer colleague, and someone who understood his passion for music. My mom, brother and I are all mourning the loss of a wonderful, lifelong friend.