1980s

Kermit Setup and CP/M

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Don’t expect fancy setup utilities in CP/M. This is the process to create a machine compatible version of Kermit (terminal emulator software). MLOAD.COM takes the main program file in HEX and modifies it using the machine specific HEX file. The result is an executable file (COM) of the desired program.

Although there were text-based DOS programs around even in the 90s, their interface was usually far more user friendly with all the setup utilities, pull-down menus and other cool features. CP/M and early DOS programs were a perfect example of how simple and crude the software from the early- and mid- 80s was.

Kermit also reminds me a big advantage of the “PC compatibility”. In theory, the CP/M software was universal. However, different floppy formats, different pinouts on serial/parallel ports and different screen handling commands made life much tougher for both software developers and users.

Trancept Systems TAAC-1 (1987)

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TAAC-1 is an interesting and little-known piece of history. Its creators call it the first board-level GPGPU (a programmable graphics card). This thing was designed to accelerate scientific and medical visualization. It could render 30,000 3D Gouraud-shaded and Z-buffered polygons per second. In addition to that, it could also be programmed to accelerate volumetric rendering and ray tracing. The board could even be programmed in C and allowed to do more than just graphics.

The large double-plane VME board filled three slots and a half of it was covered with memory chips. There were 8MB of frame-buffer memory and the 200bit GPU logic ran at 8MHz, producing up to 1024×1024 pixels in true color. TAAC-1 was used with Sun 3 systems based on Motorola 68020 (16.67MHz).

Trancept Systems Inc. was founded in 1986 by three people. One of them was Tim Van Hook. The same person that later worked for SGI as a Principal Engineer (the architect of Nintendo 64) and started a company called ArtX (Nintendo GameCube graphics hardware), which was acquired by ATI in 2000.

Demo video: part1, part2
More info: virhistory.com, obsolyte.com

Video Like From the 1980s

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My employer obliged me to make a video as a part of a sales training totally unrelated to my technical job role. I decided to make it like from the 1980s (including intro music generated by a Yamaha TX81Z FM synthesizer) so I took two Sony Handycams, a VHS recorder, some musical equipment and an old laptop with Firewire. The result was recorded to a VHS tape and back three times before I was satisfied with the picture and sound quality degradation.