How Did Blender 3D Get Its Name And A Brief History Of The Software?


It has become one of the world’s most popular open-source applications, downloading to millions of devices and used across the world in over 200 countries. But one question still bugs us… of all the things to name an application, why name it after a food appliance?

The name Blender was inspired by a song of the same name by a swiss band named Yello. It comes from the album Baby which was used in the showreel of the application when it was used as an in-house tool by the company NatGeo, a dutch animation studio co-owned by Blenders’ original creator Ton Roosendaal.

The name of the software comes from a time when it was not even open-source and was just an in-house tool used to help an animation studio achieve big dreams.

What Was Blender Before It Was Blender?

Blender 3D did not originate as an open-source 3D application, but rather as an in-house tool for a small animation studio in the Netherlands, by the name of NatGeo. No, not the video game company of the same name, but the animation studio.

They required a new toolkit that would allow them to begin creating assets for 3D projects, a very new and exciting field back in 1994 when Blender was born.

The name Blender was inspired by a song used in the software’s first showreel, by a Swiss band called Yello, as part of an album called Baby. So it is not actually named after a coming household appliance after all.

Inspiration for the software itself originates from an earlier program called Traces, which had been developed by Ton Roosendaal, the co-owner of NatGeo and the creator of Blender itself. But it would be a long time before Blender would become the 3D powerhouse that it is today.

The Turbulent Early History Of Blender 3D

It is safe to assume that the early days of Blender were far from peaceful. But the challenges did not fall with the software, but rather with what surrounding it.

Blender was at the time a platform used specifically for its parent company, NatGeo. But it would only be three years later that the company itself would go into administration and be dissolved in the early months of the year 1998. As a result, Blender would go on its first hiatus, but this would not be for long.

Before the company went out of business though, Blender itself had been released as SGI freeware on January 1st.

Is SGI Freeware The Same As Open Source

When you hear the term freeware you may think that this means an early version of the open-source license that Blender currently falls under, but it’s actually quite different.

SGI is short for Silicon Graphics Inc, a computing manufacturer based out of the state of California. The company was a promoter of free software but the term relates to the use of the software rather than the price.

The term free here means that those who acquire the program are free to use it in any way that they want even if that means for commercial intent.

In June of the same year, Ton Roosendaal would launch a new company named Not A Number Technologies, or NaN for short, and Blender would return to the public eye as shareware.

In the form of shareware, Blender became more restricted in terms of its accessibility compared to when it was freeware, as you could download a restricted version of the software at little cost but would need to pay for the full feature set if you wanted it.

This stage of Blender’s lifespan would last until 2002 when NaN would file for bankruptcy and also go out of business, once again ceasing the operation of the Blender software.

The Founding Of The Blender Foundation And The Birth Of Open Source Blender

At this point, it became clear that in order for Blender to develop as software, a different approach would be needed. That approach would be to make it fully available to the public as a 3D program available to all with no restrictions or limitations and would be protected through licensing of the software.

Blender itself was Roosendaals passion project, and so in May 2002, he started up something different, a not-for-profit company called the Blender Foundation.

The idea was for Blender’s development to be crowdfunded as a community-based open source project where the future of Blender would be determined by the artists that used it, rather than stakeholders in a company.

By September of that year, over $100,000 had been raised through the Free Blender crowdfunding campaign, and the application was once again released to the public, only this time as free, open-source software under version two of the General Public License, and has remained so to this day.

Where Did Suzanne Come From And Why Is It The Blender Mascot?

If you use Blender, then you will know that there is a special object that you can use in projects called Suzzane the monkey head.

Where did Suzanne come from? It was created by a man named Willem-Paul van Overbruggen during the end times of NaN before it went out of business for the release of blender version 2.25. The name Suzanne comes from an orangutan in the film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

It was intended almost as a last hoorah as the future of Blender was very uncertain at this point in its history. Since then Suzanne has been an ever-present and has been in every release during Blenders run as open-source software.

The Future Is Bright And Orange For Blender

The early days of Blender may have been filled with uncertainty, transitioning from one license to another, but the future looks far brighter. Since version 2.80, Blender has shifted to a structured development cycle where a new version is typically released every three to four months.

These recent versions have been packed with new features and Blender as software has never looked better and its future has never looked more stable, in large part thanks to its phenomenal community of artists and hobbyists.

Thanks For Reading The Article

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