Critical Code Studies

Kittler's Code, Chapter 6

A core file of the raytracer written by German media theorist Friedrich Kittler.

xsuptrace.c matrices.s German repository of Kittler's Code Lectures by Friedrich Kittler

Author: Friedrich Kittler
Year: early 1980s-2000s

Hardware: Pentium IV,
x86 family of processors
x87 family of floating point coprocessors
Languages: C and Assembly

II. Notes:

Note this comment was translated by the Hammermann Family at my request.

3. 11.07.11 Dates appear throughout this piece. This update seems to be July 11, 2011. Note that Kittler published Optical Media in 2010, published “Computer Graphics” in 2001, and gave the lectures Optical Media was based on in 1999. The earliest update in this code is noted as 01.04.97 in line 43.

4. The core of this program is based on a Turbo Pascal program called PTRACE.PAS, originally published in c't 1/93,167ff, Magazin für Computertechnik.

5. A second mentioned here of povray3, one of the sources for methods in this code. It is a raytracer whose first version appeared in 1991. POV in the name refers to Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” and the concept of persistence of vision in biology (Buck 2001).

6. Kittler shows how he is wrestling with the software upgrades that affect his code, showing how code studies is also software and platform studies. While developing this software, Kittler was using Intel machines that had DOS installed.

8. COMPILE: precedes a list of software that Kittler drew from.

9. See a further discussion of matrices.s later in this chapter.

19. In reflection mapping, the software creates the illusion of reflection by applying an image (the reflection) to the reflective surface, mapping the image onto the contours of the reflective object. The technique was developed in the early 1980s by two independent groups, Gene Miller with Ken Perlin and Michael Chou with Lance Williams (DeBevec).

22-23. In German, “weiter” means “continue” and “nein,” of course, means “no.”

25. Heaven, Hell, and ground here originally, “Himmel, Hoelle, Boden,” which could also be translated “sky,” “hell,” and “ground.” Plein-air refers to images painted outside “en plein-air,” a technique that dates back to the 18th Century (Malafronte 2009). Here, Kittler seems to be referring to images created outside of the program itself, which becomes the “inside,” mapping an historical artistic dyad (inside the studio, outside the studio) onto the software (inside the program, outside the program).

26. “limited only by RAM,” notice Kittler’s attention to hardware in his code’s documentation.

33. “any number of lamps,” as a ray tracer, the software works to model the movement of light form light sources, aka “lamps.”

38. In the foreword to GFT (Winthrop-Young and Wutz, xxxi), the translator notes the irony of Kittler’s use of “simply” (einfach) for things that to others are hardly simple.

42-53. “New” begins a section of documented updates from January 1997 through October 2008. Kittler used the English word here.

46. mirable dictu, happy to relate. Yes, it is a bit uncommon to find Latin in computer source code comments. See how Kittler’s voice persists.

55-72. Documents a series of “Bugs.” Kittler used the English word here.

74-77. This word “Hint” also appeared in English.