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During 1979, CERN began to evaluate how interactive computer graphics displays could aid the analysis of high-energy physics experiments at the new Super Proton Synchrotron collider. This work led to PIONS, a 3D graphics system, which features the ability to store and view hierarchical graphics structures in a directed-acyclic-graph database. It is possible to change the attributes of these structures by making selections on nongraphical information also stored in the database. PIONS is implemented as an object-oriented message-passing system based on Small Talk design principles. It supports multiple viewing transformations, logical input devices, and 2D and 3D primitives. The design allows full use to be made of display hardware that provides dynamic 3D picture transformation.