UVLayout UV mapping unwrapping unfolding Laser texturing
Interview with Denis François Boland
Co-creator of Polygonal Design (1/3)

Interview by Sonia Barkallah

Honeywell-Bull GE58 computer, 1969

First digitial geometry software on personal computer, 1982

Jean-Pierre Petit and Denis François Boland together at work on quaternions, 2019

[Sonia Barkallah] : Hello Denis François, could you tell us in which circumstances you started to create computer programs ?
[Denis François] : When I was a high school student in 1975, at Passy-Buzenval Catholic high school in Rueil-Malmaison, I was lucky enough to be trained in a form of assembly language, GESAL, which allowed to program a mini-computer, the GE58 (Honeywell-Bull brand), and was made available to interested students.
I was 15 years old, and it was an amazing revelation. At that time, the programs were built with punch cards, and the capacity of the hard drives was only a few megabytes! The computer, meanwhile, was imposing, filled with multicolored lights, often broke down, and had no screen, but only alphanumeric displays of only a few characters. This was the beginning of my passion for computers.

[S.B.] : The first microprocessors appeared by these years, did you have opportunities to have a look at that time ?
[D.F.] : Yes, and it was a fascinating experience. The Radio Plans electronics magazine I was reading regularly had published a series of articles to build a personal computer from National Semiconductor®'s SC/MP processor (also known as "scamp"). I built it, then I learned the machine language of this processor, and then that of the Motorola® 6800 with the MKII kit, and in the wake of the Rockwell® 6502 which animated the APPLE® II micro-computers of the APPLE® Company and PET® from the COMMODORE® Company: Of course I have swallowed up my savings in the purchase of these two devices as soon as it was possible for me. At that time, I published many introductory articles on computers in some magazines and I created, in 1980, an association to allow all those who wishing to learn about computer science to benefit from my own experience (Association ORMES).

[S.B.] : All this was compatible with your high school studies? Was it reasonable ?
[D.F.] : In fact, my bulimic curiosity led me in two years to successively obtain a Bachelor of Economics and Social Sciences, then a second in Mathematics and Physics, all complemented by a small scientific degree from the Institute of Applied Mathematics at the Catholic University of the West, Angers. The passion of electronics took over me, and I decided to continue my studies by becoming Engineer in Electrical Engineering of the school ESIGELEC of Rouen, in 1986. At the same time, a person who became one of my closest friends, the astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Petit, had just published his Pangraphe software : the first software in the world of digital geometry on APPLE® II microcomputer, written in BASIC language. The most amusing thing is that this amazing software, which embarked me in this field, also inspired Bruno Lévy, the authentic creator, with his colleague Alla Sheffer, with the central algorithm of UV unfolding coded in UNFOLD3D® (ABF ++ algorithm), that this was the starting point of his decision to undertake a research career in Digital Geometry. Bruno Lévy is today Director of Research Center INRIA Grand-Est, and he is a wonderful person with remarkable human qualities with whom we are very happy to have been able to collaborate to further improve the performance of UNFOLD3D®.

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