"Digital art" is no longer an astonishing thing or at least, the idea of something being extraordinary just because it was made with a computer is no longer part of the popular consciousness. We use computers for making and exchanging images constantly and most children under the age of ten can probably use Photoshop to create things more complex than the most advanced graphics program of even ten years ago could. It's a technique that, in comparison to drawing or painting which evolved over millennia, has advanced so rapidly it that something thirty years old can look so infantile it's impossible to imagine anyone being interested in it. Harold CohenInevitably, there's an element of that here. Partly by virtue of the pieces not being especially well-displayed (they're stuck into two small, square partitions at the end of the drawing gallery, which unfortunately doesn't serve them particularly well as a flowing exhibit) one of the first things I saw was Harold Cohen's programmed art, some of the first "pictures" made by computers. He made tables of numbers, according to small programmes he wrote, then used felt tips to outline the numbers that were the same (so groups of '2's all together in a green loop, groups of '3's in pink, etc.) to create shapes. This was pretty impressive at the time but it has to be said, looks like little more than phone-book doodling even in comparison to the gallery label next to its frame. Comparatively, though, the beautiful, ghostly outlines of drawings made by old Norden Bombsight "Computers" (much more mechanical devices than the sort of sophisticated technology that would sit in the cockpit of a fighter plane now) that Desmond Paul henry had attached pens to, are fantastic graphic representations of what must be mathematical data. Similarly the tumbling blocks of Herbert W Franke's drawings, which use programmes to created increasingly random collapses of forms, are about the physical and graphic representation of computer's "thoughts." Which it's unfair to suggest Cohen's pictures aren't, only that the very basic ones are ...well, basic. At the time it was impressive getting a computer to create output at all but in comparison to the things that can be done now, the felt-tip marker stands out anomalously, like an old scrabble score sheet unearthed at your grandparents' house. Jean-Pierre HebertIn the second room (although it's actually somehow the first you walk into, making the exhibition feel no less awkward) there's more recent work, like Jean-Pierre Hebert's strange, mushroomy contour diagrams, crowded together like spores or cloudy explosions. Here, machine-precision lets the artist create works that would require the most extraordinary dedication to mathematical accuracy and extremely steady hand if down unaided and the results are startlingly tactile-looking, showing more what can be done when working with computers than the stamp-tool repetition that Leon Harmon and Ken Knowlton's work unfortunately reminds me of. It's impossible to retrospectively critique pioneering work, though; saying it's not very interesting to look at Harold Cohen's pictures now is irrelevant: it was very interesting when they were first made but now less so. The point of the exhibit though was that this was meant to be a retrospective of the first digital techniques and their limitations; we could draw by the 20th century, this was a new palette. It's really unfortunate that the V&A, normally excellent at these things, seems to have decided to somewhat abandon the pictures and not give them the supporting explanations of the technologies that they need. It's a fascinating exhibit and one that deserves attention (I would have been quite happy to pay for it if it had contained slightly more material or if it had been incorporated into Digital Edge, the larger display currently running) which it's unlikely to get if it's hidden down the back of the gallery. Retro graphics are en vogue at the moment and if you have the slightest interest in the history of digital art, this is worth a look if you're in the neighbourhood, especially given that it's free and so sidelined that you're unlikely to be interrupted whilst looking at it but prepare to be frustrated by the lack of relevant information.