Will Big Blue change its color with discovery of a new pigment?
11/23/2009 by: Darleen Hartley
Blue comes in many forms: sky blue, ocean blue, blue moons. IBM’s nickname made the color infamous. Where the nickname originated is subject to speculation. Many think it was their logo, others say it was the color of their equipment.
A search of IBM’s archives shows earlier computers from IBM were red. The earliest color photo in their on-line album shows a System 360 Model 44 used for scientific computations back in 1965. A permanent disk storage unit was built into the system's central processing unit. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell what color the systems were prior to that color picture. If an IBM engineer wishes to correct us, we'll be more than happy to update the article.
The first photo showing IBM’s familiar blue casing is from 1982 in the 3083 Processor Complex which provided 32 Megabytes of storage. The name of the blue used was not identified. Blue comes in many flavors, and we wonder if their logo will borrow the recently discovered vibrant version.
Professor Mas Subramanian of the Oregon State University Chemistry Department and his students accidentally discovered the latest variation of blue, one of the primary colors. They were investigating manganese oxide properties, which can be ferroelectric and ferromagnetic simultaneously, The mineral came out of a 2,000 degree Fahrenheit [1,200 Celsius] oven a vivid blue.
The researchers published in the Journal of American Chemical Society and applied for a patent on the most durable, safe, and environmentally friendly pigment produced to date. Its supremacy is due to manganese ions being structured in an unusual "trigonal bipyramidal coordination" in the presence of extreme heat. They anticipate it being used in ink jet printers, automobiles, house paint, and fine art.
In Science Daily, Subramanian said: "Ever since the early Egyptians developed some of the first blue pigments, the pigment industry has been struggling to address problems with safety, toxicity and durability,"
Blue pigments have a long history. Egyptian blue is a Calcium copper silicate, shown in an image of Ramses III 1170 BC. It is considered to be the first synthetic pigment.
Ultramarine, first used in Afghanistan in the 6th century, was employed in illuminated manuscripts during the 14th and 15th centuries. Made from the semi-precious gem lapis lazuli, it was more expensive than gold during the Renaissance. A synthetic version of the pigment has been used since 1828.
Prussian blue, accidentally formed when a color maker was experimenting with iron oxidation in 1704, was the first modern, artificially manufactured color. Solutions of potassium ferrocyanide and iron [III] chloride are poured together to make this variation. Its name derives from being used to die the dark blue uniforms of the Prussian army. Many famous artists used it in their paintings, including Gainsborough, Constable, Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso during in his 'Blue Period'.
A 14 foot layer of what has come to be called Mayan blue was found at the bottom of a natural well at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan peninsula. Blue painted sacrifices, both clay pot and human, were thrown into this Sacred Cenote. By burning a mixture of items used by the Mayan for their healing properties, copal incense, indigo plant leaves, and palygorskite, the fusion created Mayan blue. Paradoxically, Maya Blue although said to be resistant to age, acid, weathering, biodegradation, and modern chemical solvents, over time, the paint washed off in the waters of the Sacred Cenote.
Other varieties of blue include: Cerulean, the sky blue of artists; smalt; cobalt; indigo found in blue jeans; and azurite seen in cave paintings at Tun Huang in Western China.
IBM logo was designed in 1972 by Paul Rand. His definition of "IBM blue" can be seen on the third logo
So what shade of blue is Big Blue? We still don’t know. Even the IBM archives don’t indicate when the IBM logo became blue, nor what variation of the color is used. The only clue we fund was the image here which was designed by Paul Rand in 1972.
IBM, Paul Rand, Tun Huang, Western China, Renaissance, Egyptian, Prussian, cobalt, cerulean, Afghanistan, System 360, IBM 3083, Mas Subramanian, Oregon State University, Manganese, Mayan, Sacred Cenote
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