Restoring Howarth’s Telidon Art

In 2012 the University of Victoria Archives received a donation from the estate of the late Glenn Howarth, including two dozen 5.25″ floppy disks containing his digital artworks and related material. A formal project to restore these works began in January 2015, led by John Durno (UVic Libraries).

From writings in the archive we were able to determine that Glenn Howarth had used software developed by the University of Victoria Computer Science department. The software, called Picture Creation System (PCS), enabled users to create graphics files for display on Telidon systems. During the late 70s and early 80s personal computers were not yet capable of displaying the sophisticated (for the time) graphics that were the hallmark of Telidon. Telidon systems required dedicated decoder boxes to interpret graphics files, which would then be output to a consumer-grade television set.

The restoration of Glenn Howarth’s artworks depended on locating an obscure and still functioning piece of computing hardware from the early 1980s. It was eventually located in the collection of SPARC, a volunteer-run radio museum in Coquitlam, BC. With the help of SPARC volunteer Brent Hilpert, we were able to connect a modern laptop to the decoder and display Howarth’s Telidon artworks on its built-in CRT monitor. A digital recording of the artworks was made by Daniel Hogg (UVic Fine Arts), enabling Howarth’s works to be viewed on modern computing systems.


John Durno, UVic Libraries