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July 7, 2018

Donald Glover gets pixelated in a ‘This is America’ animation on a 1987 Mac

by John_A

A video now appears on Instagram showcasing an animation of Donald Glover performing his dance pulled from the recent This is America music video (aka Childish Gambino). What makes this animation unique is that creator Pinot Ichwandardi used Apple’s old Macintosh SE all-in-one PC along with the discontinued (and decrepit) MacPaint and MacroMind Director tools. The animation itself consists of 375 frames putting Glover in blocky retro motion.

To get the full scope of this animation, Apple sold the Macintosh SE between 1987 and 1990 packing two floppy drives for $2,900 or with a 20MB hard drive for $3,900. It sported a built-in 9-inch monochrome display with a 512 x 342 resolution powered by a 7.8MHz Motorola CPU and up to 4MB of system memory. It served as the successor to Apple’s Macintosh Plus.

This model was the first compact Macintosh to include an internal storage device, an expansion slot, and support the Apple Desktop Bus. Overall, the device weighed 17 pounds and shipped with System 4.0 and Finder 5.4 that were released specifically for this all-in-one PC. Eventually, Apple renamed the operating system to Macintosh System Software.

MacPaint made its first appearance on the original Macintosh in 1984. It’s a raster graphics editor similar to Paint on Windows designed by two members of Apple’s original Macintosh developer team: One coded the software and one designed the interface. The menu was originally labeled as “Aids” prior to its official release but was renamed to “Goodies” due to the outbreak of AIDS during the summer of 1983. The latest version of MacPaint appeared in 1988.

Meanwhile, MacroMind was an Apple Macintosh software developer that eventually changed its name to the more familiar Macromedia who was purchased by rival company Adobe at the end of 2005. The company introduced multimedia animation software called VideoWorks in 1985 that saw its successor, VideoWorks II, launched in 1987. This second version was renamed to Director, which you see in the video, that’s now listed as Adobe Director.

That said, there is a lot of hardware and software history behind the Glover animation. The video shows Ichwandardi editing the monochrome bitmaps of each frame rendered in a timeline like-fashion within MacPaint on the Macintosh SE. After that, you see what appears to be every bitmap in a folder that will be imported into MacroMind Director and put into motion. The animation picks up as Glover fires a gun at a seated man’s head.

According to Pinot, the animation is a work in progress. So far, the Instagram video racks up 1,565,400 views on Instagram although how long its shelf life will last depends on Glover and his record label RCA Records given the included copyrighted content. Still, the project is interesting in that someone is using a working 31-year-old computer from 1987 to create animation stemming from a 2018 music video.

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