VersEFX: The Early Days

The initial VersEFX Prototype was literally built of logic strips like this. There was an aluminum rack panel underneath it to act as a ground plane, and I plugged in multipliers, op-amps, and D/A converters and tweaked them around to get the desired results. Shown here is my first 3D rotation matrix. Rotation sine/cosines came from a D/A board I had built for an Apple II. Roy Weinstock wrote a program to control the rotation angles and keyframe them. We used TV raster sawtooth voltages for the X and Y, and an analog shading generator for the Z inputs. We fed a convergence pattern to the CRT intensity. This allowed us to demonstrate 3D rotation of a 3D warped grid.

This system was our mid-level prototype, using a single 68K processor to control a smaller cage of analog cards shown on the console. The analog deflection voltages are driving an XY display buried under the black cardboard to the right, which is being rescanned by a camera on a tripod. This sytem was used to debug both the analog and software side of the 3D rotation matrix operations that allowed VersEFX to operate in 3D (unlike the 2D Scanimates). My main regret with this system is that we did not turn it over to our production people to begin using immediately. They could have used the technology to do things nobody else was doing at the time, but we kept holding off for the more complete system....

This is Jim Ryan, who was the first person to join the project. Jim's background was aerospace, having designed software systems for Bunker-Ramo. He developed all the code that ran in the Master and Slave VersEFX systems, all in Motorola 68000 assembly language. Jim is shown here at the "interim" console for VersEFX, which had been an editing console in a former life. An animation control program allowing 3D rotation, with the 68000 updating hundreds of registers with new information each frame is running on the Motorola terminals used with the development system.

This is Bob Ritchey, our hardware designer, busy at work on the operator console status display board. As you can see, Bob could be very studious at times. Bob had worked at Triple-I on the "MMM", or Movie Machine Memory, which was a framebuffer used with the F1.

Here is Roy Weinstock populating one of our custom-designed PC boards. In all we built some ten different VersaBus boards, of which there were often many copies to manufacture. Roy was normally an animator, but because he knew a lot about electronics, we put him to work in R&D.

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