How many CPU hours did I burn in the early 1990s rendering bits of the Mandelbrot Set? A lot, mainly because I was doing it in BASIC on an unexpanded 8 MHz Commodore Amiga A500. The image below that Fraqtive rendered in almost no time would have taken me days:
But it turns out that the first rendering of what we now call the Mandelbrot set wasn’t produced by Benoit Mandelbrot, but by Brooks & Matelski a year or two earlier:
What I’ve done – and mostly thanks to tweaks by commenter nobody below – is create period-appropriate code to reproduce that graphic. Since the paper was presented in 1978, there’s a fair chance that the authors had access to a machine running FORTRAN-77 or a near equivalent. FORTRAN’s particularly good for this:
- it has a built-in COMPLEX type that extends regular mathematical functions;
- it has just good enough string handling to output a line of spaces/asterisks. I would not have wanted to write this in FORTRAN-66, as that language had no string manipulation facilities at all.
So here’s the code. It should compile on any Fortran compiler:
PROGRAM BRKMTF ! GENERATE FIGURE FROM BROOKS-MATELSKI PAPER C.1978 ! THAT EVENTUALLY BECAME KNOWN AS THE MANDELBROT SET ! - SCRUSS, 2022-05 ! REF: BROOKS, ROBERT, AND J. PETER MATELSKI. ! "THE DYNAMICS OF 2-GENERATOR SUBGROUPS OF PSL (2, C)." ! RIEMANN SURFACES AND RELATED TOPICS: PROCEEDINGS OF THE ! 1978 STONY BROOK CONFERENCE, ! ANN. OF MATH. STUD. VOL. 97. 1981: FIG. 2, P. 81 REAL MAP, CR, CI INTEGER I, J, K, M, ROWS, COLS, MAXIT COMPLEX C, Z PARAMETER (ROWS=31, COLS=71, MAXIT=200) CHARACTER*80 OUT CHARACTER CH*1 DO J=1,ROWS CI=MAP(REAL(J), 1.0, REAL(ROWS), -0.8715, 0.8715) DO I=1,COLS CR=MAP(REAL(I), 1.0, REAL(COLS), -1.975, 0.475) C=CMPLX(CR, CI) Z=CMPLX(0.0, 0.0) CH='*' DO 100, K=1,MAXIT Z = Z**2 + C IF (ABS(Z) .GT. 2) THEN CH=' ' GO TO 101 END IF 100 CONTINUE 101 OUT(I:I)=CH END DO WRITE(*,*)OUT END DO END REAL FUNCTION MAP(X, XMIN, XMAX, YMIN, YMAX) REAL X, XMIN, XMAX, YMIN, YMAX MAP = YMIN + (YMAX - YMIN) * ((X - XMIN) / (XMAX - XMIN)) END
The results are spot-on:
Maybe Brooks & Matelski had access to an Apple II and wrote something in BASIC? I could be entirely period-accurate and write something in PDP-8 BASIC on my SBC6120, but not today.
It really is much easier using a language with complex number support when working with the Mandelbrot set. Here’s the same program in Python3, which bears more of a resemblance to FORTRAN-77 than it might admit:
#!/usr/bin/python3 # brkmtf - Brooks-Matelski proto ASCII Mandelbrot set - scruss, 2022-05 # -*- coding: utf-8 -*- def valmap(value, istart, istop, ostart, ostop): return ostart + (ostop - ostart) * ((value - istart) / (istop - istart)) rows = 31 cols = 71 maxit = 200 for y in range(rows): ci = valmap(float(y + 1), 1.0, float(rows), -0.8715, 0.8715) for x in range(cols): cr = valmap(float(x + 1), 1.0, float(cols), -1.975, 0.475) c = complex(cr, ci) z = complex(0.0, 0.0) ch = '*' for k in range(maxit): z = z**2 + c if (abs(z) > 2.0): ch = ' ' break print(ch, end='') print()
I found out about the Brooks-Matelski paper from this article: Who Discovered the Mandelbrot Set? – Scientific American. It’s none too complimentary towards Benoit Mandelbrot.