A. Michael Noll

A. Michael Noll (born 1939 Newark, New Jersey) is an American engineer, and professor emeritus at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. He was a very early pioneer in digital computer art and 3D animation and tactile communication.



Noll has a B.S.E.E. from Newark College of Engineering (currently known as New Jersey Institute of Technology), an M.E.E. from New York University, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

Before joining the Annenberg School for Communication, 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, such as teleconferencing and videotex.

He has been Director of Technology Research and a Senior Affiliated Research Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Tele-information at Columbia University's Business School. He has been also affiliated with the Media Center at New York Law School, has been 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.

In the early 1970s, 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.

From 1992 to 1994, 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. He joined the faculty of the Annenberg School as a professor of communications in 1984 and became emeritus in 2006.

The electrical-engineering honor society Eta Kappa Nu 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.


Bell Labs in the early 1960s was extremely pioneering in the beginnings of digital computer art (A. Michael Noll), digital computer animation (Edward E. Zajac, Frank Sinden, and Kenneth C. Knowlton), and digital computer music (Max V. Mathews and John R. Pierce).

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 and animation, human-machine tactile communication, speech signal processing, cepstrum pitch determination,[1][2] and aesthetics.

Computers and the Visual Arts

Noll was one of the first researchers to use a digital computer to create artistic patterns and to formalize the use of random processes in the creation of visual arts.[3] His initial digital computer art was programmed in the summer of 1962 at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, making him one of the earliest digital computer artists.

In 1965 Noll along with two other pioneers within the field of early computer art, Frieder Nake and Georg Nees in Germany, were the first to exhibit publicly their computer art. During April 1965, the Howard Wise Gallery in New York City exhibited Noll's computer art along with random-dot patterns by Bela Julesz. Noll proposed in the 1960s that the digital computer might become a creative artistic medium.[4]

Tactile Man-Machine Communications System

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Noll constructed interactive three-dimensional input devices and displays and a three-dimensional, tactile, force-feedback ("feelie") device (US patent 3,919,691 "Tactile Man-Machine Communications System" filed May 26, 1971, issued November 1, 1975). This device was the forerunner of today's virtual-reality systems, and Noll suggested its use as a way for the blind to "feel" computer graphics. He also was one of the first researchers to demonstrate the potential of scanned raster displays for computer graphics. He was an early pioneer in the creation of stereoscopic computer-animated movies of four-dimensional hyper-objects, of a computer-generated ballet, [5] and of computer-animated title sequences for TV and film.

His experiment comparing a computer-generated pattern with a painting by Mondrian was an early implementation of the Turing Test and an example of the use of digital computers in investigations of aesthetics.[6]


Noll has published over ninety professional papers, has been granted six patents, and is the author of eleven books on various aspects of telecommunications.

He has been a regular contributor of opinion and columnist pieces to newspapers and trade magazines with over 100 published. He has been quoted frequently about telecommunications and the telecommunication industry by the media. He has also been a reviewer of classical music performances for the Classical New Jersey Society.


  1. ^ “Short-Time Spectrum and Cepstrum Techniques for Vocal-Pitch Detection,” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 36, No. 2, (February 1964), pp. 296-302.
  2. ^ “Cepstrum Pitch Determination,” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 41, No. 2, (February 1967), pp. 293-309.
  3. ^ “Computers and the Visual Arts,” Design and Planning 2: Computers in Design and Communication (Edited by Martin Krampen and Peter Seitz), Hastings House, Publishers, Inc.: New York (1967), pp. 65-79.
  4. ^ “The Digital Computer as a Creative Medium,” IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 4, No. 10, (October 1967), pp. 89-95.
  5. ^ “Choreography and Computers,” Dance Magazine, Vol. XXXXI, No. 1, (January 1967), pp. 43-45.
  6. ^ “Human or Machine: A Subjective Comparison of Piet Mondrian’s ‘Composition with Lines’ and a Computer–Generated Picture,” The Psychological Record, Vol. 16. No. 1, (January 1966), pp. 1-10.

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