Nude Pictures On Early Retro PCs — Was it Possible?

The production and use of adult images has widespread health implications for both men and women. It all began with a single picture ...

DEV GENIUS – The JPEG format was introduced in 1993 and GIF was released in 1987. Was it possible to watch nude photos on this lovely portable computer made in 1983?

After publishing a review of my Compaq Portable, I got this question from a reader. The answer turned out to be not so simple as we might think. Let’s figure it out.


First, let’s talk about the hardware and its possibilities — was it possible to watch any photos on the early personal computers? Obviously, the mainframes and supercomputers in the 70s were capable of processing photo images, but these computers were not available to the general public.

The very first personal computer, Altair 8800, was released in 1975, a happy owner was able to enter the program using switches and to watch results using LEDs.

“Lena Forsén, previously Soderberg, (born 31 March 1951), is a Swedish model who appeared as a Playmate in the November 1972 issue of Playboy magazine, as Lenna Sjööblom. The image would later become a ubiquitous standard test image in the field of digital image processing, where the image is known as Lenna.” – Wikipedia

There were even some games created for this machine, the titles like “Kill the Bit” can give the readers an idea of the gameplay itself, and there was obviously no chance to see any photo on this device.

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At the end of the 70s, computers with a CP/M OS were available, this was a fully-pledged OS with a file system, disk drives, compilers, programs and games.

But there was a problem — the CP/M UI was text only. In theory, it was possible using ASCII graphics, to display something like this:

But it could be treated as a fun trick but not as a real photo. Some CP/M machines, like a Visual 1050 computer, actually had graphics capabilities, though there were no universal standards for it.

One of the earliest formats available for CP/M was RLE, it encoded black and white images with a 256×192 resolution. It is far from perfect but still way better than a pure ASCII. A monochrome image in this format has about 6 KB size, so on a CP/M 90 KB floppy disk, up to 14 photos of this quality could be saved.

“Some of the common damaging effects for [adult content] users can include addiction, isolation, increased aggression, distorted beliefs and perceptions about relationships and sexuality, negative feelings about themselves, and neglecting other areas of their lives.” – Utah State University

Later computers hardware became more powerful. The CGA (Color Graphics Adapter) was introduced in 1981, the MS-DOS computers were able to display graphics with up to 320×240 resolution in 4 colours … Read more. 

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Image of Lena Forsén used in many image processing experiments.
Image of Playboy centerfold Lena Forsén used in many image processing experiments. | Fair Use.

The production and use of adult images has widespread health implications for both men and women. Click here for previous coverage on Headline Health. 

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