November 04, 2002
Symbolics Color Graphics System

Courtesy of Rainer Joswig (again), lemonodor presents scans of a Symbolics Color Graphics System (aka S-Graphics) brochure. Given my propensity for cluttering lemonodor with pretty pictures, it's probably not surprising that I have a soft spot in my heart for 3D graphics in Lisp. You can imagine my delight when Rainer mentioned he had these scans.

some 3d dinos a still from Stanley and Stella in: Breaking the Ice, by Symbolics

S-Graphics running on Symbolics hardware became nearly ubiquitous in broadcast and film animation in the late 80s and early 90s. Many of the short films in The Mind's Eye, a 1990 compilation of computer animation, were created on Symbolics systems. The video included a groundbreaking animation produced by the Symbolics Graphics Division, "Stanley and Stella in: Breaking the Ice". (Stanley and Stella was one of the first applications of Craig Reynolds' "boids" behavioral animation model.)

a still from a boids animation test a still from a boids animation test a still from a boids animation test

When Symbolics went bankrupt S-Graphics was acquired by Nichimen Corp., which renamed it N-Graphics and eventually turned it into a series of high-end graphics tools: N-World, then Mirai. As just one example of the popularity of the tools, the graphics in Super Mario 64 were created with N-World (which is built on ACL). Two years ago Izware took over development of the Nichimen graphics products.

a character developed with Mirai

So that's a short summary of the long history of S-Graphics. In 1984, when this brochure was produced, I doubt anyone was expecting even descendents of the software to be around almost 20 years later.

Symbolics Color Graphics brochure, page 1Symbolics Color Graphics brochure, page 2
Symbolics Color Graphics System, Pages 1-2

Symbolics Color Graphics brochure, page 3Symbolics Color Graphics brochure, page 4
Pages 3-4

Symbolics Color Graphics brochure, page 5Symbolics Color Graphics brochure, page 6
Pages 5-6

Symbolics Color Graphics brochure, page 7Symbolics Color Graphics brochure, page 7
Pages 7-8

Posted by jjwiseman at November 04, 2002 12:01 AM

ah... now you have touched on something near and dear to my heart as well! I am pretty new to Lisp but the inspiration to even get started can be traced back to Nichimen's Mirai. As an undergrad I had come to love A|w's Maya and didn't believe anything could be better...One Siggraph and this video: changed all that. Note it's a time lapse video but even in realtime he's working incredibly fast.

Of course after researching all the power of Mirai and then Lisp (only had 2 semesters of C++ at the time so that took some doing!), it was sad to learn that Mirai was essentially dead. i.e. no longer being actively developed. However as a testament to its power all the current day modelers like Maya, 3ds max, Softimage, and Lightwave are just now catching up to the modeling and animation power that Mirai had in 1998. But sill in some respects they are still a long way off and there is still a hardcore dedicated fan base that prays for the Mirai Phoenix to rise and pray their current copy will continue to work as hardware and windows (patooey!) changes.

Now thankfully there is someone carrying on the Mirai/Nendo way of modeling thru an open source project called Wings 3D. It's written in Erlang but I hope that when I have a little more free time and a little more knowledge of Lisp, I'd like to rewrite Wings3d in Lisp just to see it's performance versus that of wings+erlang.

Anywho, I'm glad to see some of the old day Lisp 3d stuff being posted. It seems that I haven't heard any really good news on the 3d front with Lisp since Mirai became a vegetable :(


Posted by: charlie mac on November 4, 2002 05:41 AM

Well, unfortunately my longer comment got deleted :(
So here is a shorter, less wordy one:

1. Sadly Nichimen and Mirai are now dead or maybe a vegetable on life support. Mirai hasn't been developed on since 1998. Even so, it still beats modern day 3d software in some areas. It was used on Lord of the Rings.

2. Wings 3d ( is an open source project that aims to carry on the Mirai tradition. It is written in Erlang. when I get enough time I would like to try to rewrite in Lisp to compare performance.

My apologies to jjwiseman if this becomes a duplicate

Posted by: charlie mac on November 4, 2002 05:51 AM

Well, rumor has it that Izware is still/again working on Mirai 1.5 .

That you can use Lisp in advanced 3d stuff has been shown again recently. Naughty Dog's game Jak and Dexter for the Playstation 2 is written mainly in a custom Lisp dialect (GOAL) which itself has been written with Allegro Common Lisp.

Posted by: Rainer Joswig on November 4, 2002 06:59 AM

hmmm... it appears my browser was suffering from looking at cached pages... sigh..

Yes the rumor is that Izware is still working on Mirai 1.5... but from what I heard and understood at the last Siggraph in LA there is only one person in Izware's employ. The die-hards are still hoping that Izware will update and/or make a linux port etc. but since you can't even get a demo version out of them anymore it just keeps getting more depressing :(

Posted by: charlie mac on November 4, 2002 07:54 AM

Well Vlad... that indeed is some great news! I need to monitor that board more closely from now on :)

Posted by: charlie mac on November 4, 2002 10:50 AM

Coincidentally, this recent comp.lang.lisp article[1] has a bit of info on Izware.


Posted by: jjwiseman on November 5, 2002 02:41 PM

I enjoyed you rlispm/graphics stuff.

You mention Luca Pisati - do you have a current email address for him?


Posted by: Peter Paine on June 30, 2003 07:58 AM

mirai/IZware is back!!!
mirai 1.5 should be out soon...

Posted by: betty on March 30, 2004 07:11 AM

I have a high spec XL1200 with Vector accelerator, loads of fast disk, RAM, FrameThrower, Frame Grabber, Its in Miami FL.
Looking for a buyer. Will consider any offer.
Shipping / pick-up.

Posted by: JJ on October 30, 2004 12:42 PM

Very intesting thread. Where can I find more information?

Posted by: Ken Giddons on November 23, 2004 01:31 PM

Just a minor correction to an earlier post: Wings3D isn't meant to be a clone of Mirai, but rather Nendo, which was a sub-$100 modelling tool. Nendo had a devoted following, because of the price and the intuitive interface. Mirai was a much, much bigger package.

Posted by: James Hague on April 11, 2005 11:11 AM

Does anyone have Luka's present email or address?

Posted by: Butch Fadely on November 11, 2006 02:01 PM

As a large fan of the work in The Lord of the Rings, I have been looking for Mirai for a very long time now. If anyone has any information they are withholding, or even if anyone is selling a liscence, please post. I'm willing to do anything for Mirai.

Posted by: Camden Miller on November 23, 2006 08:10 AM

Camden, drop me a mail.

Posted by: ww on December 14, 2006 04:18 AM

Have you any news about izware and mirai?
i've seen some videos on the net about modeling whit this package and i'm courios about the company...
they are still on work?

thank you for your time!!!


Posted by: daniele on February 23, 2007 03:42 AM
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