Eric Francouer helped rescue this crucial archive of early uses of interactive computer graphics in understanding the molecular realm of intracellular biology. These movies document the very early days of interactive computer graphics and their maiden scientific use (in practical science at least) in working out macromolecular structures.
The first system for the interactive display of molecular structures was devised at MIT in the mid-1960s.
Cyrus Levinthal and his colleagues designed a “model-building” program to work with protein structures (Levinthal 1966). This program allowed the study of short-range interaction between atoms and the “online manipulation” of molecular structures. The display terminal (nicknamed Kluge) was a monochrome oscilloscope, showing the structures in wireframe fashion.
Three-dimensional effect was achieved by having the structure rotate constantly on the screen. To compensate for any ambiguity as to the actual sense of the rotation, the rate of rotation could be controlled by globe-shaped device on which the user rested his/her hand (an ancestor of today’s trackball) (NOTE - this is a fantastic historical parallel to the use of the Leap Motion to control data from the Protein Data bank [link])
Speaking of his invention Levinthal said:
"It is too early to evaluate the usefulness of the man-computer combination in solving real problems of molecular biology. It does seems likely, however, that only with this combination can the investigator use his "chemical insight" in an effective way. We already know that we can use the computer to build and display models of large molecules and that this procedure can be very useful in helping us to understand how such molecules function. But it may still be a few years before we have learned just how useful it is for the investigator to be able to interact with the computer while the molecular model is being constructed."