A. Michael Noll

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A. Michael Noll is a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. He has published over ninety professional papers, has been granted six patents, and is the author of ten books on various aspects of telecommunications.

Came to Bell Laboratories in 1962 as a young engineer, where he, under the supervision of John R. Pierce, initially dealt with the development of new processes to determine speech frequencies. Here a then widely-used graphic output apparatus, the Stromberg Carlson SC-4020 Microfilm Plotter – a combination of cathode ray tube and film camera – was applied, with which Noll allegedly began his aesthetic experiments a little later. In an internal memorandum of August 28, 1962, he writes: »Rather than risk an unintentional debate at this time on whether the computer-produced designs are truly art or not, the results of the machine’s endeavors will simply be called ‘Patterns’«. The idea for this generation of patterns of points and lines came to him, as Noll reports, through a colleague’s programming error leading to graphic data output. Both were reminded of modern art. A constitutive portion of the FORTRAN program, which Noll subsequently wrote, was a subroutine named »WNG« (White Noise Generator), which calculated a series of random numbers.


He is currently Director of Technology Research and a Senior Affiliated Research Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Tele-information at Columbia University's Business School. He is also currently affiliated with the Media Center at New York Law School, is a senior advisor to the Marconi Society and was an adjunct faculty member of the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Prof. Noll is a regular contributor of opinion pieces to newspapers and trade magazines with over 50 published thus far. He is quoted frequently about telecommunications and the telecommunication industry by the media.

From 1992 to 1994, Prof. Noll was dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication for an interim period. During this time he formulated a broader vision of communication that resulted in a merger of USC academic units that study communication.

Before joining the Annenberg School for Communication, Prof. Noll had a varied career in basic research, telecommunication marketing, and science policy. He worked in the AT&T Consumer Products and Marketing Department where he performed technical evaluations and identified opportunities for new products and services. Prof. Noll spent nearly fifteen years performing basic research at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey in such areas as the effects of media on interpersonal communication, three-dimensional computer graphics, human-machine tactile communication, speech signal processing, and aesthetics. He is one of the earliest pioneers in the use of digital computers in the visual arts. In the early 1970s, Prof. Noll was on the staff of the President's Science Advisor at the White House and was involved with such issues as computer security and privacy, computer exports, scientific and technical information, and educational technology.

Degrees and awards[edit]

Professor Noll has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, an M.E.E. from New York University, and a B.S.E.E. from Newark College of Engineering. Eta Kappa Nu, the electrical-engineering honor society, awarded him Honorable Mention as an Outstanding Young Electrical Engineer in 1970. In 1990, the Computer Graphics Pioneers of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) elected him a Pioneer in recognition of his early work in computer graphics.

In 1965 Noll along with two other pioneers within the field of early computer art, Frieder Nake and Georg Nees, organised exhibitions of computer graphics calling it Computer Art:

  • 1965.02.05 - 1965.02.19, Georg Nees, Studien-Galerie University of Stuttgart
  • 1965.04.06 - 1965.04.24, A. Michael Noll & Bela Julesz, Howard Wise Gallery New York City
  • 1965.11.05 - 1965.11.26, Frieder Nake & Georg Nees, Galerie Wendelin Niedlich Stuttgart