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Silicon Dreams refers to the surreal visuals seen in early CGI animations / art from the mid-1980s to early 2000s.

History[]

Computer-generated imagery (or CGI for short) and its origin can be traced back to the Late 1950s and 60s, when computers were able to render lines and patterns. But the conventional idea of "CGI" as we know today wouldn't start until the 1970s, were they started to generate 3D models for the first time. A notable example from the time being "Computer Animated Hand" from 1972, which is considered the first 3D computer animation to be ever created.

By the 1980s, CGI began to technologically evolve at a faster rate and slowly being introduced to the mass public through advertisements and TV bumpers. It was also during this time when the common attributes associated with Silicon Dreams start to become a lot more apparent, with demos like Quest (1985), Brilliance (1985), Mental Images (1987), Deja Vu (1987), Polly Gone (1988), and the first Pixar shorts like Luxo Jr. (1986), Tim Toy (1988), and Knick Knack (1989).

During the following decade, the 1990s, CGI starts to get into the mainstream media, with new blockbuster movies and TV shows beginning to adopt these technologies, since it was starting to get more commercially viable then ever before. All of that led to the release of the first CGI feature-length animated film Toy Story in 1995, and Cassiopeia in 1996, which furthered the advancements in CGI that were happening in the 90s.

Despite the leaps in CGI technology between the 80s and 90s, there was a consistent visual identity that was present in 3D animation. It was characterized by sparse landscapes or architecture, low-resolution textures, simple visual effects and objects, in situations, environments, and 3D models that are surreal and "out of this world" in nature, like something that came out of a dream.

Silicon Dream ended by the Mid-2000s when CGI in animated movies, shows, and advertising became advanced enough and the norm of the industry (i.e. Frutiger Aero). In the 2010s, the aesthetic had a revival on the internet by the rise of aesthetics like Vaporwave and Seapunk, which ended up being used as a tool to complement the visuals of these aesthetics or to create a sense of nostalgia of a bygone time.

Visuals[]

Silicon Dreams often includes images, artwork, and shorts made with early CGI from the 80s to 90s, a majority of them being either space or technologically-themed, landscapes or even CGI architecture. A lot of imagery included simplistic polygons, textures, and lighting, due to the technical limitations of the time.

The Silicon Dreams aesthetic was also commonly seen in Trapper Keepers of the 90s; loose-leaf binders made by the stationary company Mead that were used for the sake of organizing school supplies for students. This could also be seen as the connecting tissue between it and more modern-ish aesthetics such as Vaporwave, Seapunk, Icepunk, Slimepunk, and ironically Y2K Futurism.

Technology[]

At the time when Silicon Dreams started, many people used computers to generate imagery.

  • Macintosh 128K (1984)
  • Windows 1.0 (1985)
  • Macintosh Plus (1986)
  • PlayStation (1994)
  • Sega Saturn (1994)
  • Windows 95 (1995)
  • Nintendo 64 (1996)
  • Sega Dreamcast (1998)

Music[]

In the 2010s, Silicon Dreams was utilized as an element in Vaporwave music/aesthetics, be it from Oneohtrix Point Never's music video for Nobody Here (which some pinpoint as the very first example of Vaporwave music put out into the wild) as well as the music video for Macintosh Plus's Lisa Frank 420. The Vaporwave connection could be considered a carryover from when the Seapunk community gravitated towards Vaporwave after its decline in popularity, where Seapunk was heavily inspired by many early works within the Silicon Dreams style of aesthetics (due to many members of the community being children at the time Silicon Dreams was first conceived) which added to the sense of nostalgia that both Seapunk and Vaporwave evoke.

Dire_Straits_-_Money_For_Nothing_(Official_Music_Video)

Dire Straits - Money For Nothing (Official Music Video)

The music video for Dire Strait's Money for Nothing included early CGI animation in it, as well as Miley Cyrus's music video for We Can't Stop also utilizing clips from the earliest known example of CGI animation (a simple talking face attempting to show emotion and "talk" that was made all the way back in 1974). Many Seapunk music videos (specifically from the likes of Ultrademon) utilize a more "high definition" variation of the early Silicon Dreams works of the 1990s.

In the late 2010s and 2020s, many Intelligent Drum and Bass/Jungle albums and Low Poly YouTube mixes feature CGI of the Silicon Dreams aesthetic (most notably, the Peshay Studio Set (1996)). Jungle is a more advanced and Y2K Futurism-oriented sound, compared to the more primitive, Late 80s/Early 90s New Age sounds of Vaporwave.

Media[]

In terms of its usage in early media of the 90s, there was a certain level of what could be described as "janky" in this particular era of CGI animation, due to the technology still being extremely new and, as such, still in an extremely primitive state.

Movies[]

  • TRON (1982)
  • The Adventures of André & Wally B. (1984)
  • Luxo Jr. (1986)
  • Red's Dream (1987)
  • Tin Toy (1988)
  • Knick Knack (1989)
  • Mind's Eye film series (1990-1996)
  • The Lawnmower Man (1992)
  • Toy Story (1995)
  • Cassiopeia (1996)
  • A Bug's Life (1998)
  • Foodfight! (2012)
  • The Star Trek film series

TV Shows[]

  • Les Fables géométriques (1989-1992)
  • Quarxs (1990-1993)
  • The Moxy Show (1993-1995)
  • VeggieTales (1993-present)
  • The Incredible Crash Dummies (1993)
  • BattleTech (1994)
  • Insektors (1994-1995)
  • ReBoot (1994-2001)
  • Cyber Weapon Z (1995)
  • Beast Wars: Transformers (1996-1999)
  • The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (1996-1997)
  • Donkey Kong Country (1997-2000)
  • Weird-Ohs (1999-2000)
  • Beast Machines: Transformers (1999-2000)
  • Butt-Ugly Martians (2001-2003)
  • Cubix (2001-2004)
  • Cyberchase (2002-present)
  • The Amazing Digital Circus (2023-present)

Video Games[]

Because CGI was fairly new in video games in the '90s, 3D video games have low-poly graphics, meaning that the meshes in games do not have many polygons to create a smoother model.

  • Myst (1993)
  • Star Fox (1993)
  • The 7th Guest (1993)
  • Virtua Fighter (1993)
  • Donkey Kong Country (1994)
  • Geograph Seal (1994)
  • Killer Instinct (1994)
  • Tekken (1994)
  • Tempest 2000 (1994)
  • Rise of the Robots (1994-1995)
  • Air Combat/Ace Combat (1995)
  • FX Fighter (1995)
  • Jumping Flash! (1995)
  • Wipeout (1995)
  • Worlds.com (1995)
  • Vectorman 1 & 2 (1995-1996)
  • Resident Evil (1996)
  • Diablo (1996)
  • Sonic 3D Blast (1996)
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (1996)
  • Super Mario 64 (1996)
  • Time Commando (1996)
  • Wipeout 2097/Wipeout XL (1996)/Wipeout 64 (1998)
  • Cyber Troopers Virtual-On (1996)
  • Final Fantasy VII (1997)
  • LSD: Dream Emulator (1998)
  • Half-Life (1998)
  • Buck Bumble (1998)
  • Old School Runescape (2001-present)
  • The Utility Room (2023)

Webfiction[]

  • Orion's Arm (2000-present)

Gallery[]

References[]

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