Dan Silva is the legendary creator/developer of Electronic Arts' Deluxe Paint. DPaint, as it affectionately came to be known, started out as EA's in-house graphics editor Prism and became the premiere 2D paint package for pixel graphics in videogames released for the Amiga, PC and other platforms in the late 1980s / early-mid 90s. Deluxe Paint was first released in 1985 and amazingly achieved over 50% market saturation with Amiga owners. However, Silva started work immediately on Deluxe Paint II, determined to incorporate features he had wanted to include in the initial release that had been sidelined by the software development schedules of his support team colleagues.
Probably having realised just about all that he wanted in a 2D graphics package with the 1989 release of Deluxe Paint III, Silva left EA for more challenging pastures. In 1990, he joined the Yost Group and worked for the next decade as a core developer of 3D Studio MAX (aka Autodesk 3ds Max), a highly popular professional 3D modelling package of the era and beyond released for PC.
Hitting rewind and going back to the very beginning of this story, though, how did Dan Silva's interest in graphics come to be? After all, Silva has openly admitted in the past that he ''wasn't into programming in the abstract,'' so what did he do before he got interested in computer graphics and when exactly did everything change? In a DPaint III video tutorial released in 1989, Silva provides some insights into how his interest in graphics all started in the 1960s.
''I got into computer graphics in not the most direct way. I actually started out in mechanical engineering, but when I was going to school — which was originally at Stanford — there wasn’t any computer graphics department. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t anything called computer graphics that I had ever heard about.
I got into using computers in mechanical engineering to synthesize three-dimensional kinematic linkages, which sounds pretty complicated but actually involved many of the same concepts that you use in computer graphics. When I started working at other jobs – I worked at NASA Ames doing scientific programming – I did everything I could to get my hands on equipment that I could create computer graphics with, because I just felt a real need to create some sort of tangible output. I wasn’t into programming in the abstract.''
Indeed, in the early 1960s Silva began working towards his Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. At the time he could not have conceived that the humble computer would one day become such a dynamic medium for self-expression and creativity. The existence of this potential only began to be realised during his 4 years with Informatics, a contractor to the NASA Ames Laboratory. Like many computer programming pioneers of the time, Silva did his most interesting work after hours when the precious computer resources available would otherwise have lay idle.
In 1978, he took up a new position at Xerox designing the user interface design for the Xerox Star workstation. It was there that he envisioned that having fun with computers might actually make for a decent living. The following year he moved to the newly-formed Lucasfilm computer division, where he designed a video editor. After that Silva returned to Xerox, where he worked with Bill Bowman to create a next generation bitmap graphics editor. This collaboration resulted in Doodle, a monochrome paint program Silva produced for the Xerox Star 8010 ''Dandelion'' system, which eventually evolved into the Free-Hand Drawing application produced for the platform and its successors as part of Xerox's graphic-orientated ViewPoint software suite.
Unsurprisingly, by the time he joined Electronic Arts in 1983, Dan Silva had a pretty clear concept of what the ideal paint program would look like and, importantly, how it should behave. With this in mind, he started work at EA on Prism.....a graphics editor that was specifically designed to serve as an in-house tool for videogame & serious software development, but in the grand design of things would end up being soooooo much more!