How Blender started, twenty years ago…

I’ve managed to find the oldest backup of Blender, a snapshot of the first code I wrote to start a new project to replace the in-house tool “Traces”.

This started in the Christmas / New Year holidays of 1993, and with the first code working around new-year’s day.

The backup is from January 8, 1994. You can find the code for it here.

What I did first was designing the Blender ‘Screen’ system, a design I had in mind based on only using a single window, with subdivisions inside to assign it various editors. Every 2d/3d graphics program back then was opening plenty of small windows, which I found tedious and not optimal for a good workflow.

After the holidays I left the code lying there for a while, to continue in June 1994 with writing Blender’s revolutionary .blend file format, using the “DNA” system. In the months after I ported over a lot of code from the old Traces, making the new software become our standard in-house tool in November 1994.

Based on the timestamps for the (empty) files blender.c and blender.h, I would like to mark Blender’s 20th birthday on January 2nd 2014! Happy birthday Blender!

-Ton-

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  1. Wow. 🙂 I was only a little boy back then, but for some reason, this makes me feel nostalgic by empathy.

  2. I really love blender and wish u all the best and success
    In the development journey.
    And wish to see it among the top level softwares

    Best wishes and happy new blender year 🙂

  3. Nice, just 12 days before my bday, i was 10 in 1994, and already knew I wanted to do vfx/animation… and here we are now, i’m 28, and blender is 20 (almost)

    Good stuff.

  4. I was 23 so I would have been messing about on my Amiga 2000 with Real 3D and a demo version of lightwave.

  5. Hahah cool! 😀 and look at it now! With Cycles and everything.

  6. Happy New Blend!!!

  7. I think the only awareness I had of 3D graphics by that point was StarFox on SNES and Alone in the Dark on PC.

  8. Ha cool , just found my Blender 1.5 Manual published by Nota Number as I fired up my SGI O2 as evey year between christmas and new year 🙂

  9. Keep at the good work guys.

  10. Haha! This is nice. ’93 huh! The year I began programming on windows. I still have a copy of Blender 1.6 my personal Blender Museum

  11. At the bebinning… Ton Created #include “blender.h”…

  12. Great, please tell us more of that era. By then I was (also) 23 trying to do some 3D stuff on an Amiga 500 using Sculpt3D. A simple mirror ball with a cube and a pyramid over a classic checker board took all night to render!

  13. Well, I’ve still got my Amiga A4000 060/PPC Quad monitor…
    It still gets a lot of use, often play with Imagine 3d, Photogenics
    VlabMotion and other stuff.
    The Amiga UI is really fast (usually real time), something PC’s and Mac’s
    cant do.
    I mostly use mac’s today for Blender when I get a bit of time.

  14. In 1994, I was still quite young (compared to now), but I was already working for a Flemish governmental organization. And last week I cleaned my office because we will soon move to a new building nearby the railway station. I have thrown away many old papers, but one specific text from 1994 I have kept and taken home to show my family : “Windows 3.11 For Workgroups. I)Introduction A)WHAT IS A PC ? B)Some basic concepts: Hardware/Software/Files/Extensions/Floppy-disk/Floppy-drive. II)The Keyboard … and so on and so on …
    What I mean is this: When WE learned the first concepts of the PC (and modern life), Ton was already writing code for the first Blender version !!! And THAT is REALLY AMAZING, isn’t it ?

  15. Ton, please, I’ve been wanting to ask this for a long time:

    You have a Ph.D. Honoris Causa, but,
    how and when in your life did you absorb all the 3D mathematics??

    Courses on quaternions and dual quaternions are not offered in high school!

    • I just apply math, I don’t waste too much time to understand it 🙂 My math skills are very limited actually. But basic 3D math (vectors, matrices) is quite logical and understandable, especially when converted to C code.

      Quaternions are actually dead simple to use 🙂 Just 4 numbers, quite similar to axis + rotation angle.

      • Quaternions are actually dead simple to use…

        Spoken like Bernhard Riemann!

        (Or, Srinivasa Ramanujan.)

  16. I was 34 and studying computer science & engineering in 1994, working as as student programmer writing the upper level C code for an automated telescope imaging the lunar albedo at zero phase angel. Took a couple of autoCAD courses by then. Had taken one or two computer graphics classes for my degree and fell in love with 3D. I had learned 3D Studio Max and Lightwave by the time I discovered blender in 2001 and left them both behind. Love the blender interface – it rules!

    So, what does blender *want* for it’s birthday?

  17. Very cool. I remember first giving Blender a whirl back in 1996 on Linux. I had finally pushed Linux into the office which was by now after Novell getting NT dominated. I knew linux was awesome on a networking level but Graphical applications on Linux? So I installed an X server and started Linux (no idea about 3D back then) and I was like… Okay… My colleague was like… cool… I guess… WTF can we do with it?
    I was like: “err 3D, but I have no fucking clue as to how it works.”

    So of it went. But we felt pride that a fellow Dutch guy was developing 3D software for Linux.

    It took until 2 years ago when I finally learned Blender.

    • For the sake of correct history – Blender was not released in public until January 1998. A linux version appeared in spring then.

  18. @ROY, You still got an O2? Cool stuff man! I love those little “Art Deco” like toasters, pucker little buggers — it was such a powerhouse compared to my Indys.

    I always wanted one myself but never got my hands on them. I was actually a Digital Unix guy and I still swear by their out of order, processing and awesome FP power. But SGI had the coolest 3D software.
    Now DEC no longer exists and SGI has a niche that they hardly can keep a foothold in with competitors like Oracle (aka SUN), IBM and HP.

  19. Wow, very cool! It’s a great thing that you dug this up just before the 20th birthday of Blender. Now we can all celebrate! \o/

  20. Meraviglioso !!
    i share my birthday with blender, and 20 years ago i was just trying to write a 3d program for my Amiga. Luckily Ton did it for me 🙂
    Happy birthday Blender

  21. Happy birthday ! 🙂

  22. In that time, my second one was 5 months old. 20 years later, both have grown very well. Congrats, Blender.

  23. Huh? This means that I share a birthday with Blender?!
    (January 2nd, 1985, but still…)

    Happy (early) Birthday, Blender!

  24. Great to see how a single person can start to create with a few lines of code something that will become the core of a huge multi-facetted community 20 years later and still have a great vision. Thanks Ton! you get my vote for the Open Source Man of Year 2014 😉

  25. Back 20 years ago I was transitioning from a program called Digital Arts to 3D Studio.

    Does anyone remember Digital Arts? It was a pretty sophisticated 3D program for Windows released in late 80s. I used to do 3D modelling and animation on a 286 with an extra Motorola processing card in it. The system cost about $5000. 3D Studio killed it, however. I wish I could remember more about it. No one has documented it anywhere that I can find…..

    As for Blender, well, Happy Birthday! Blender saved my career. I was in a lousy job in which all animation had to be done in Flash (yuck) with no possibility of getting budget for a decent 3D program, let alone After Effects. I found Blender and starting training myself and before you know it clients were amazed at the quality of work I was putting out. How did I do that! people would ask. Oh, just a free 3D program called Blender….hah!

    I love Blender so much I am thinking of getting a tattoo. Plus, when I have some time and money going to give back to the Blender community in a big way! Thanks Ton and all the people who make Blender possible!

  26. Happy happy joy joy to world’s favorite 3d program. Thank you for this gift to the world. Mucho success in the coming years. I will continue to support this great world-wide effort. By the way, the Blender interface is perfect. Don’t change it.

  27. I agree, do not change the interface. The thing to worry about is that Blender should keep things consistent and the UI should have “a Blender theme” in the way of doing things.

  28. heyyyyyy happy birthday blender,i do hope it become a most used software for making games and animation.

  29. Fantastic, a powerful tool. Happy birthday to Blender.
    About three years ago, I was attracted by the 1080p short moive named “Big Buck Bunny”, it was so fantastic and unbelieveable. I could not image that the film was made by using Blender and supported by the Peach Project. With great progress, Blender now is a so amazing. Haa …
    Happy birthday and happy new year, wish a bright future

  30. I was lent a Schneider computer in ’94 from a former East German who had written his own operating system for it but it wasn’t until I bought my own PC in ’98 that I took to computers in any meaningful way… and discovered Blender. I bought the beautifully made Blender 1.6(?) manual which I have now given to my son as a memento.
    I recall being amazed that such a powerful piece of software could fit on a floppy disc — under 1.4MB for those too young to have used floppy discs.
    Long may Blender last! A tool that has opened up the world of 3D modelling and animation to millions of people worldwide.
    Thank you so much for this Ton.

  31. Do you have all the dependencies so we could pull it together and run it?

  32. This procedural type of programming is totally out of date. Memory management in C is one of the biggest problems with programming today, giving rise to unexplained crashes and hard to trace bugs. More ROI and garbage collection should be employed.

    • what? …if you’re very bad programmer then of course you need GC and language like Java/C# 😀 😀 😀

      • You are summarizing all that is wrong with programming today: hubris. Every ‘good’ programmer thinks that he can get it right. But only the really good developers realize that being human means making mistakes, particularly when deadlines and budget constraints are in play. Therefore as much as possible should be be done to take developers lives easier and preferably automatic.

  33. #include “blender.h” 🙂

  34. I just wanted to say a word about the Blender interface discussion that has been happening recently.

    Over the years I have used a bunch of 3D programs, as well as many many other paint, vector, and animation programs, and Blender is as good as anything I have used.

    Anyone who thinks that any full featured 3D program can be ‘easy’ to use is starting from the wrong place. Any good 3D program, including Blender, is by definition ‘hard’ to use because there is so much to learn! It is like saying that writing software would be easy if the interface was better. No! It is hard because doing it is hard and takes a long time to master. Blender is as good or better than any full featured 3D package out there. I never liked the rigidity of 3DSMax, but many do….I find I prefer the flexibility of Blender better. But both are hard to use, because they are COMPLICATED.

    • Well said! However…

      – It’s always a good target to strive for good interactive artistic control, consistency, efficient workflow. Blender fails in quite some areas here (especially when features are half finished), where we happily continue to work on of course.
      – Complexity should be a great design challenge for any UI and tool designer. I would never give up trying to find the simplest solutions here. But simple doesn’t necessary mean “easy”.
      – The UI discussion came down to a basic conflict of interests – for occasional users the learning curve can be a true obstacle. And even though I prefer to work for motivated & regular users, it’s always good to review conventions and design that helps both newbies and power users to make using Blender more pleasant.

  35. Blender is still highly dependent on the keyboard and the mouse ….. with the emergence of “leap motion technology” it might get left behind.

  36. Thanks for opening 3d graphics to all of us!
    Happy new year!

  37. Happy Birthday!

  38. Happy Birthday! Thanks Ton for having a vision & seeing the Projection to success!

  39. Happy Birthday!

  40. Happy another good new year and wish 4 another great year 4 blender….”HAPPY BIRTHDAY”

  41. Auguri Blender e Grazie Ton per quello che hai creato 😉

    Blender Greetings and Thanks Ton for what you have created;-)

  42. Happy birthday!! Thanks for starting such a wonderful project!! 🙂

  43. Happy new year 2014 !
    Great for open source and i whish you a better code to help us to understand again more clear.
    Congrats to Ton and team !!

  44. I wish u all, not only developers but also artists h@ppi new yaar 😉
    keep blending, all of u 😉

  45. Where does the time go?

  46. i was able to share Doky and the other Smoos with my children as 3D animations thanks to Blender (man 1.5).
    I was able to model them in clay (smoos, that is, not my kids) as handouts at birthday parties… then to make those same models of smoos into blender animations. I still wear my Blender rags
    with pride.

  47. we will try to learn window

  48. It is very interested for knowledge as well as Entertainment
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU BLENDER……….

  49. happy birthday!!! debo decir que desde que encontre la forma de utilizarlo y viendo los ejemplos de las galerias lo comence a utilizar mucho mas y es un software mucho muy poderoso y magnifico, felicidades son unos genios optimizando un software 3D multiusos; video, modelado, render, fisicos, animación, post produccion, es simplemente una maravilla, felicidades y que sigan muchos años mas.

  50. Oh my God! I was 1 year old back then (in 1993), found blender in a computer magazine around 2006/7 and I’m still using it XD Wish you all the best of luck, also many thanks for the hard and awesome work. Oh and sorry for my bad English :>

  51. Happy New 2014 Year and Happy birthday Blender! i do hope it become a most used software for making games and animation. I began familiar with Blender in 1997/ Then in 2009 i began to teach my students with 2.40 version
    Supertick

  52. Happy birthday Blender, and thanks to all the developers, and the artists behind it.

  53. I wasn’t even born then.. That’s a lot of time to keep a project alive. Thanks for creating such a great tool.

  54. I like Blender! Happy B-day

  55. I wish a happy birthday to Blender and would like to thank the whole staff involved in the development and documentation for that really recommendable software.

  56. Felicidades a Blender y a todo el equipo que esta detras de este proyecto.

  57. feliz cumpleaños chicos!
    gracias por todo!

  58. Thanks for your work and good luck in future development !!!

  59. You are awesome dude! I wish you all the very best! You did really a wonder job!

  60. Congratulations Ton!

  61. Happy birthday, wish you all the best 🙂

  62. Blender is one of my all time favorite things on the web! Happy 20th birthday.. 🙂

  63. This is crazy.
    I wasn’t even born then!!!

  64. Parabéns a todos os envolvidos neste maravilhoso mix de Software e ideologia!

    Congrats to everyone involved in this magnificent mix of software and ideology!

  65. if at all possible could someone with knowledge of the 64bit window’s builds on the daily build’s page give me a heads up on why it’s been down for a couple of week’s. i’ve got the official 69.1. i’m using windows i7 ati radeon 5450.thanks in adv.for response

  66. Congratulations to all involved thanks for your hard work.

  67. Wow started as a litte boy 😉

  68. CONGRATS!

  69. So BLENDER had the same Birthday like me :-)))))
    But I am 34 years older :-(((((

  70. Thanks a lot great tool ‘s contribution! Happy!

  71. its really great time happy blend……:)

  72. Thanks for your work.

  73. Wow! I wasn’t born yet!

  74. Happy bday Blender and long long or infinity life.

  75. Happy Birthday Blender!!! 😀 One of the best peices of software there is I do think.

    @Ton It should be on 93. 😀

  76. I remember that in 2001, I first saw Blender on the web I was very excited. I made my first 3d of a glowing 3d torus in autocad 12. I obtained a dodgy copy of 3d max and made the famous crystal ball with refractions on a checkerboard. Then the software crashed and I was heartbroken. I read an article about Blender in an old 3d magazine and was bedazzled and confused by all the buttons. I got the Blender Book by Wartman and a light went on when I tipped the plane and beheld the 3d cube. I became excited and in spite of having severe dyslexia I returned to college and conquered programming and Calculus. I wondered why 3d did not have that organic, fluid feel that Tex Avery cartoons had. After reading Tradigital Blender by Hesse, I see that is mainly an issue of learning the timing and spacing. I was further inspired by Caminandes and have written my own old skool animation script and am working on a movie myself! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLENDER!!!!:)!!

  77. That’s great job !

  78. I started out with graphics work when I was 17 using a very old version of 3ds Max. Over time I switched to OpenFX for a while because it was free. I never really knew about blender until about 6 or 7 years ago. I’m almost 33 now, and this last year I’ve put the time in and learned the UI intrinsically. Having a program that’s as versatile as blender has been a massive help for all of my design work, from game creation to video editing. I’ve also spent a lot of time helping others learn the blender system and found that while the UI seems a bit daunting at first, it became the 3d program I turn to for the fastest turnaround on projects. It’s workflow is simply unmatched by anything else I’ve learned.

    It’s really something special to be able to sit down and look through the code that is the genesis of this amazing program.

  79. bit late but whoah! 20 yrs…. had no idea…
    I am astonished by the progress you guys made in the last 2-3 years, and I’m wishing you the best! (btw good support of fbx and/or collada based-flow could help to make it even more popular soft 😉 )
    ~zajac
    (started 3d adventure with typing hidden-lines algorithm into atari 800 xe in 1987 – to test on 3d gaussian bell line-drawn surface 😀 ))

  80. Blender is the best !
    That’s all.

  81. Man,that’s great!I’m a huge fan of Blender…I’ve started with Blender 2.48…Take a look on my old game made in 2.49b…Back in that day,i was only 11 years old!(I’m from Brazil)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDsq2rWGmVU

    Blender Rules!

  82. I discovered Blender my sophomore year of high school in 2000-2001. I had searched Google for “Free Animation Software” and Blender popped up. I spent weeks noodling around with it and only got as far as adding and rotating a mesh. I stumbled upon some tutorials and was then able to start using Blender for the school’s news show, creating VFX for my segments. I used to get so excited when I discovered the work arounds for reflections, hair, and fire. I remember when the push to make it open source came about and was thrilled when the goal was met.
    Over the years, I’ve continued to use Blender for VFX work in my short and feature films. It’s come a long way! I have on occasion tried other 3D software but I keep coming back to Blender as it’s what I cut my teeth on and it’s what I know. I look forward to many more years and to the exciting new developments to come.

  83. Ahhhh memories. I would having been using Imagine 3d on my A1200 030 33mhz (POWER!) at the time … Good times.

  84. Around the time Blender started I was writing C code in a 386 DOS PC for my graduate thesis while keeping a huge C book about developing Games in C on my bookshelf giving it a glance every now and then. We then parted company as I switched gear to what I thought was a more serious career move in database administration. However, About a year ago I caught up with this fantastic Blender and now it became my all-time favorite software to use as it invokes my creative side of the brain. I just wish I knew it a decade ago when it matured.
    Happy 20th anniversary and thank you Ton for giving us such a wonderful and rich tool.

  85. We shall make a statue of you code…thank you Ton.

  86. Congratulations Ton, I’m sure you will still be coding with Blender ver 13 in 20 years time!

  87. Thanks to Ton and his supporters/developers for this gift to the world. May you all gain much good from your work.

  88. It great and moderated

  89. The Blender “Screen” concept was very much ahead of it’s time. It’s really hard to appreciate how innovative this idea was. Before what we now know as “non-modal” 3d programs were enormous messes of difference screens, windows and modes. I am not sure we can really say that Blender and Mr. Roosandal invented, or even significantly influenced the modern non-modal environment, but certainly the concepts early on has put Blender in the position it is today as a modern and efficient workflow. I’m not about to say that Blender is perfect, but the GUI really is extremely innovative.

  90. super awesome

  91. Yay! As one of the original contributors to making Blender open source I’m so happy it’s still going strong.

  92. I started using blender around 1999, with a 1.44floppy found in a computermagazine, started using it and ordered the blender manual 1.5 with 1.8 appendix (online! then already) real nice designed manual and the 2 tutorial guides from 1999.
    used it little less over time, but sins some 7 years used it very much.
    thanhs ton for starting and maintainging this wonderfull programm.
    congratulations on the 22th birthday

  93. Very cool – thank you for sharing and congratulations.

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