VOGONS


First post, by nfraser01

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Hi All

Apologies for copying a popular title, but it seemed appropriate given the subject matter.

There seem to be loads of Hercules video card clones available through the obvious auction site. Is there a brand or chipset that is preferred/considered best? More importantly, are there any to avoid?

Target is an XT class PC (Amtrad PC1512) if that makes a difference.

Thanks

Reply 1 of 32, by mkarcher

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I never heard of any problems. All the clones get the standard text mode and the standard graphics mode perfectly right. I don't think there is demo-scene content that requires cycle-perfect compatibility to the original card, so everything should be fine. There are special cards that have hardware-basesd CGA emulation, i.e. they look like a CGA to software, but output MDA-compatible timing to the monitor, IIRC the "ATI Small Wonder" could do it, but that will be a different price class than the popular HGC/CGA (or HGC only) clone cards.

Reply 2 of 32, by Grzyb

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All "Hercules" cards are alike, with two exceptions:
- Hercules Graphics Card Plus - provides RamFont = loadable charsets, and text modes other than 80x25, eg. 80x43, but it's not very useful as few programs use that
- "dual" cards, ie. Hercules-and-CGA-in-one, some of them can display CGA modes on MDA/Hercules monitors, eg. the already mentioned ATI Graphics Solution / Small Wonder Graphics Solution

There may be one problem, though - Amstrad PC1512 already has onboard video, CGA + some additional modes, and I don't know if it can be disabled...
If it can't, then there's the address conflict between CGA memory and the second page of Hercules memory.
There's at least one Hercules clone where the second page can be disabled with a jumper - Tseng Labs ET1000, but it doesn't really make sense, as there are programs that heavily use the second page.

Nie tylko, jak widzicie, w tym trudność, że nie zdołacie wejść na moją górę, lecz i w tym, że ja do was cały zejść nie mogę, gdyż schodząc, gubię po drodze to, co miałem donieść.

Reply 3 of 32, by nfraser01

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mkarcher wrote on 2022-10-07, 22:02:

I never heard of any problems. All the clones get the standard text mode and the standard graphics mode perfectly right.

Good to know - thanks

Reply 4 of 32, by nfraser01

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Grzyb wrote on 2022-10-07, 22:42:

There may be one problem, though - Amstrad PC1512 already has onboard video, CGA + some additional modes, and I don't know if it can be disabled...
If it can't, then there's the address conflict between CGA memory and the second page of Hercules memory.
There's at least one Hercules clone where the second page can be disabled with a jumper - Tseng Labs ET1000, but it doesn't really make sense, as there are programs that heavily use the second page.

OK.

Just looking at the technical reference nmanual for the PC1512 it says:

The 128K byte address space from A0000 to BFFFF is reserved for the 8-bit memory associated with certain controllers, and is not used by CPU programs. The on-board Alpha/Graphics VDU controller uses the 16K byte address range from B8000 to BBFFF for screen refresh memory. Also an optional external monochrome alphanumeric VDU controller uses the 4K memory address range from B0000 to B0FFF.

So looks like no memory clash?

Thanks

Reply 5 of 32, by Jo22

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The PC-1512 can be used with an Hercules InColor Card..

https://www.seasip.info/AmstradXT/pc1512hic.html

So maybe the normal Hercules card will work, too.
After all, the Hercules InColor Card ist Hercules Monochrome compatible.
So it covers the HGC framebuffer region, too.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 6 of 32, by BitWrangler

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I am fairly sure I got one of those cheap, generic, single chip (apart from RAM etc) multimode adapters working on a PC-1512 3 decades ago, but the deets have had 30+ years of bioneural bitrot to expire. It's in the config switches somewhere.

Edit: you might miss early POST on it though, just get a flashing cursor until it prints summary and starts boot.

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 7 of 32, by Grzyb

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nfraser01 wrote on 2022-10-08, 11:34:

The 128K byte address space from A0000 to BFFFF is reserved for the 8-bit memory associated with certain controllers, and is not used by CPU programs. The on-board Alpha/Graphics VDU controller uses the 16K byte address range from B8000 to BBFFF for screen refresh memory. Also an optional external monochrome alphanumeric VDU controller uses the 4K memory address range from B0000 to B0FFF.

So looks like no memory clash?

That "optional external monochrome alphanumeric VDU controller" with 4 KB of RAM is clearly an MDA clone.

You can install a Hercules and use it for text mode only - B0000..B0FFF - no conflict.
You can run graphics programs that only use the first page - B0000..B7FFF - no conflict.
But when you run a graphics program that uses the second page - B8000..BFFFF - you get garbage on the screen.

Nie tylko, jak widzicie, w tym trudność, że nie zdołacie wejść na moją górę, lecz i w tym, że ja do was cały zejść nie mogę, gdyż schodząc, gubię po drodze to, co miałem donieść.

Reply 8 of 32, by nfraser01

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Grzyb wrote on 2022-10-08, 21:04:
That "optional external monochrome alphanumeric VDU controller" with 4 KB of RAM is clearly an MDA clone. […]
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That "optional external monochrome alphanumeric VDU controller" with 4 KB of RAM is clearly an MDA clone.

You can install a Hercules and use it for text mode only - B0000..B0FFF - no conflict.
You can run graphics programs that only use the first page - B0000..B7FFF - no conflict.
But when you run a graphics program that uses the second page - B8000..BFFFF - you get garbage on the screen.

Ahh yes - forgot that the 4k would only be enough for the text mode - the graphics mode takes 16k IIRC...

Most likley to be using it in text mode anyway.

Thanks again.

Reply 9 of 32, by Jo22

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The Microsoft driver library for Hercules support, MSHERC, can be loaded with a switch:
MSHERC /HALF

This will Hercules aware applications make use only one video page,
which can co-exist with CGA.

I tried this a few times, mainly HGC clones.
The following examples are done with an Nixdorf 8810 M35, which has CGA on-board (primary device).
The Hercules compatible is the secondary video adapter (chosen with MODE MONO).
The amber monitor is always the Hercules monitor. The green one is used for CGA.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKCphBy2jGg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMZK64LaUn0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-dtM5i_T9A
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE648YNe2Ag

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3tIuQ27Gb4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2zLL0Z-zI4

CGA works still, with the HGC installed:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O70w_g1hOlo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGCUErENKBA

Here's the prove that both video types are found by BIOS
(CGA: GRAPHICS VIDEO, MDA: MONOCHROME VIDEO)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nMB8XvwUJo

To the technical side: I don't know exactly how it works.
I assume, it puts the Hercules into half mode first (register write ?),
then provides the library for Microsoft products (QB45, VBDOS, EDIT etc).

The Windows 2.x Hercules driver won't conflict with CGA, either:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCV8OPVY-uE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKUR_oxkqyA

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 10 of 32, by nfraser01

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Jo22 wrote on 2022-10-09, 14:43:
The Microsoft driver library for Hercules support, MSHERC, can be loaded with a switch: MSHERC /HALF […]
Show full quote

The Microsoft driver library for Hercules support, MSHERC, can be loaded with a switch:
MSHERC /HALF

This will Hercules aware applications make use only one video page,
which can co-exist with CGA.

Great stuff!

Reply 11 of 32, by BitWrangler

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Does GEM 2.0 only work with one page or get smart that it can only have one? Because I think I ran that while using cheapy (Paradise chip?) card and IBM green mono on a PC1512

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 12 of 32, by nfraser01

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BitWrangler wrote on 2022-10-09, 15:03:

Does GEM 2.0 only work with one page or get smart that it can only have one? Because I think I ran that while using cheapy (Paradise chip?) card and IBM green mono on a PC1512

I've ordered a Hercuyles clone and now need to find an affortable MDA monitor. After that I'll let you know!

Reply 13 of 32, by BSA Starfire

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This is what I'm using for herc, a tiny little card and a Tiawan Royal paper white. Had for a few years now and VERY happy with both.

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286 20MHz,1MB RAM,Trident 8900B 1MB, Conner CFA-170A.SB 1350B
386SX 33MHz,ULSI 387,4MB Ram,OAK OTI077 1MB. Seagate ST1144A, MS WSS audio
Amstrad PC 9486i, DX/2 66, 16 MB RAM, Cirrus SVGA,Win 95,SB 16
Cyrix MII 333,128MB,SiS 6326 H0 rev,ESS 1869,Win ME

Reply 14 of 32, by BSA Starfire

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Very compatible, runs everything I have tried and solid. the monitor is also very light and easy to handle.

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286 20MHz,1MB RAM,Trident 8900B 1MB, Conner CFA-170A.SB 1350B
386SX 33MHz,ULSI 387,4MB Ram,OAK OTI077 1MB. Seagate ST1144A, MS WSS audio
Amstrad PC 9486i, DX/2 66, 16 MB RAM, Cirrus SVGA,Win 95,SB 16
Cyrix MII 333,128MB,SiS 6326 H0 rev,ESS 1869,Win ME

Reply 15 of 32, by nfraser01

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BSA Starfire wrote on 2022-10-09, 15:45:

This is what I'm using for herc, a tiny little card and a Tiawan Royal paper white. Had for a few years now and VERY happy with both.

Looks like I've ordered a later revision of the same card without the parallel port...Boding well.

Reply 16 of 32, by Grzyb

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Jo22 wrote on 2022-10-09, 14:43:
The Microsoft driver library for Hercules support, MSHERC, can be loaded with a switch: MSHERC /HALF […]
Show full quote

The Microsoft driver library for Hercules support, MSHERC, can be loaded with a switch:
MSHERC /HALF

This will Hercules aware applications make use only one video page,
which can co-exist with CGA.

This only works for programs that use the Hercules card via MSHERC.
Vast majority of programs use Hercules directly.

Most programs using native Hercules graphics (720x348, as opposed to CGA emulation modes) only use the first page.
But there's also plenty of exceptions: Windows 3.1 with Hercules Monochrome driver uses the second, and Blockout game uses both for double-buffering.

Nie tylko, jak widzicie, w tym trudność, że nie zdołacie wejść na moją górę, lecz i w tym, że ja do was cały zejść nie mogę, gdyż schodząc, gubię po drodze to, co miałem donieść.

Reply 17 of 32, by Jo22

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Grzyb wrote on 2022-10-09, 21:04:
This only works for programs that use the Hercules card via MSHERC. Vast majority of programs use Hercules directly. […]
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Jo22 wrote on 2022-10-09, 14:43:
The Microsoft driver library for Hercules support, MSHERC, can be loaded with a switch: MSHERC /HALF […]
Show full quote

The Microsoft driver library for Hercules support, MSHERC, can be loaded with a switch:
MSHERC /HALF

This will Hercules aware applications make use only one video page,
which can co-exist with CGA.

This only works for programs that use the Hercules card via MSHERC.
Vast majority of programs use Hercules directly.

Most programs using native Hercules graphics (720x348, as opposed to CGA emulation modes) only use the first page.
But there's also plenty of exceptions: Windows 3.1 with Hercules Monochrome driver uses the second, and Blockout game uses both for double-buffering.

You're right, MSHERC is mainly a support library for establishing Hercules software support. 🙂

It's a set of routines that were "outsourced", so the compiler wouldn't bloat up the programs with rarely needed Hercules routines.

I guess that was a dilemma at the time, also. 🤷‍♂️
Hercules was dated, but still a defacto standard in the business world of the 1980s.
Companies just couldn't afford dropping support for it.

To my defense, that's why I mentioned this before, albeit a bit down the posting. 😅

To the technical side: I don't know exactly how it works.
I assume, it puts the Hercules into half mode first (register write ?),
then provides the library for Microsoft products (QB45, VBDOS, EDIT etc).

But anyway, there were just two mayor compiler makers at the time: Microsoft and Borland.

Or rather, they were popularly known makers of compilers.
There existed much more less relevant compiler makers, but I can't remember them (Watcom? Mix Software? DJ Delorie's? and..?).

Clipper, the dBase compiler, also was often used for business purposes (various dBase translators, such as DBÜ, for converting code also existed).

The preferences surely changed in the 1990s.
Watcom and some other one (DJ something?) were really hyped.
Borland's Turbo Pascal also was still important to all the sane people that didn't feel comfortable with the nerdy C/C++. 😉

Borland's Turbo line (Turbo Pascal etc) used *.BGI drivers to further extend support for graphics adapters.
Maybe these drivers were intelligent enough to recognize the current state
of MSHERC or the Hercules card and kept the half mode configuration.
That being said, I haven't tested this before. I'm really curious finding out!

I mean Borland's Turbo Basic (later, Power Basic) was like Quick Basic, just more "tuned" (CPU type could be set for code generation etc).
So there's a possibility that it was mimicking the behavior of the Microsoft's flag ship (QB).
On thw other hand, it had certain bugs, also. Not sure how it handled Hercules support. 🤷‍♂️

Edit: I forgot to mention. Hercules was often misspelled as "Herkules" in my country.
This might be good to know when looking for related documents.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 18 of 32, by Jo22

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Quick update. Found a video at YouTube about the dual monitor setup.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSzFvOQp_XM

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//