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October 23, 2021 Archives

Saturday, October 23, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Collecting and Curating Crayfish in Carolina

Posted at 12:52 Permalink

CONTEXT: AutoCAD Release 10 on an IBM Professional Graphics Controller

The IBM Professional Graphics Controller (PGC) (which was often incorrectly called a PGA, for Professional Graphics Adapter, by many people, including me) was a remarkable device for its time. Introduced in 1984, around the same time as the PC/AT, it was compatible with both the original IBM PC and XT as well as the AT. It supported 640×480 pixel 60 Hz graphics with a 256 colour palette of 8-bit RGB values and had 320 kB of on-board display memory, so it occupied none of the scarce 640 kB address space of the PC architecture. It had its own Intel 8088 microprocessor (the same as in the PC and XT) which implemented high-level graphics commands such as drawing arcs and circles and solid filling polygons. This allowed AutoCAD to offload all of the pixel-pushing to the graphics board, speeding up image regeneration.

This power came a a price—a forbidding one. List price for the PGC, which consisted of three printed circuit boards stacked together, was US$ 4,290 in 1985, which is equivalent to US$ 11,000 in today's BidenBucks. This was comparable to the price of an entire IBM PC/XT, which was US$ 4,995 in 1985. This thing was so expensive that I doubt Autodesk would have bought one to support it if IBM hadn't loaned us one to develop a driver. After developing an AutoCAD driver for it (which was a breeze thanks to the on-board graphics primitives), I later used the board in the development of AutoShade, as it was one of the few 256 colour boards available at the time.

Here is a long Twitter Thread from Tube Time (scroll back to the start), who recently restored an IBM PC/AT which probably belonged to an AutoCAD customer back in the day and got AutoCAD Release 10 (which shipped in October 1988) running on it.

Posted at 11:57 Permalink

CONTINUITY: The Amazing Tracking Shot from Soy Cuba

Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba) is a 1964 film by directed by Mikhail Kalatozov of the Mosfilm studio in the Soviet Union. The film, an anthology of four stories intended to show how horrible life was in pre-revolutionary Cuba, was poorly received at the time and little known until it was rediscovered by Martin Scorsese and others in the 1990s, who were stunned by the cinematography, particularly the long tracking shot in the funeral scene which starts at the 1:43 point in this clip. Wikipedia describes the shot as follows.

In another scene, the camera follows a flag over a body, held high on a stretcher, along a crowded street. Then it stops and slowly moves upwards for at least four storeys until it is filming the flagged body from above a building. Without stopping, it then starts tracking sideways and enters through a window into a cigar factory, then goes straight towards a rear window where the cigar workers are watching the procession. The camera finally passes through the window and appears to float along over the middle of the street between the buildings. These shots were accomplished by the camera operator having the camera attached to his vest—like an early, crude version of a Steadicam—and the camera operator also wearing a vest with hooks on the back. An assembly line of technicians would hook and unhook the operator's vest to various pulleys and cables that spanned floors and building roof tops.

Posted at 11:29 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: What Is This? Exploring a Mystery Hewlett-Packard Instrument From 1950

I was about to call this an “early Hewlett-Packard product”, but that wouldn't be correct. Hewlett-Packard was founded in 1939 and by 1943 already employed 200 people manufacturing a line of electronic test equipment sold to industry and the military. This indisputably is, however, an odd Hewlett-Packard product.

Posted at 10:44 Permalink