Alan Norton was born and grew up in Utah. He attended the University of Utah where he received his B.A. degree in mathematics in 1968. He attended Princeton University where in 1976 he received his Ph.D. degree in mathematics, on the subject of moduli of complex vector bundles. For the next few years he worked on mathematics research and taught at the University of Utah and Hamilton College. In 1980 he joined the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., working as a visiting scientist with IBM Fellow B. Mandelbrot on the computation and visualization of fractals. In 1982 Norton became a permanent member of the IBM Research staff, with initial assignment to work on the investigation of architectures for parallel processing. That study led to the founding in 1984 of RP3, the Research Parallel Processing Project.
The star of "Tipsy Turvy" is the "Utah teapot", a computer graphics teapot, designed by Martin Newell in 1971, that has come to symbolize the modern computer graphics achievement of making realistic pictures of real objects.
At the start of the animation, the teapot is apparently suffering from a hangover. It hiccups twice, bouncing its lid into the air, startling the nearby glassware that rocks back and forth. Then the teapot sneezes violently, propelling itself and the lid into the air. When the teapot returns to the table it lands on the spout, smashing the teapot into thousands of pieces. Teapot fragments ricochet off the other occupants of the table, knocking vases and bottles aside. By the time the teapot lid lands, the table has been cleared by the teapot's crash.
The teapot scene was simulated as a mesh of more than 20,000 nodes, requiring about 1/2 hour of 3090 CPU time per animation frame. The resulting images were then ray traced to exhibit shadows and reflections. During the course of the production more than 2,000 hours of 3090 CPU time was used. The software for simulation and rendering was written in C. Simulation was performed in the AIX/370 system. Rendering was done under AIX/370 and MVS.