The Utah Teapot


I studied computer science in college and I earn my living working with computers. One course I enjoyed in college was computer graphics. For a short time I even worked on creating computer generated images for NASA. A famous test object in computer graphics is a special teapot called the "Utah Teapot" or the "Newell Teapot". It is called this because Martin Newell created the computer model based on his teapot when he was at the University of Utah. This model is still important to computer graphics. The Internet has a lot of information about it such as at the Wikipedia Utah Teapot page.

When I attended a big computer graphics conference in 1989 I saw the original teapot. Try to imagine computer programmers excited by the sight of a teapot in a museum! The conference inspired me to learn the mathematics necessary to create my own images of the Utah Teapot. It did not take me long to create a wireframe image (upper left inset) of a perspective projection to two dimensions. About a year later I was able to perform the more difficult task of determining which parts of the image are hidden (lower left inset). The hidden line algorithm I used is based on Galimberti and Montanari's article, "An Algorithm for Hidden Line Elimination" published in "Communications of the ACM" April, 1969.

Many years later I discovered that the teapots are available for sale in Germany from Friesland (the original manufacturer). I was delighted to acquire my own Utah Teapot!