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A 286 computer, is it totally useless?

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Reply 200 of 229, by Scali

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Grzyb wrote:

But for non-linear editing, you needed lots and lots of CPU power, and in that era it usually meant RISC.

You needed processing power, which is not necessarily CPU power.
The VideoToaster was what you needed (the second-generation Flyer supported nonlinear editing), and it was exclusively available for the Amiga: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Toaster
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPKQ-rKGb7c
The genlock feature was also unique to the Amiga: the entire motherboard was designed in a way that an external clock could take over, so that the Amiga's video circuit was synchronized to an editing chain.
You couldn't do that with any of the fancy SVGA or XGA cards on PC.

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Reply 201 of 229, by gdjacobs

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Thus an Amiga could take the place of massively expensive character generator workstations from Chyron, Deko, etc. for live TV studio graphics.

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Reply 202 of 229, by appiah4

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What Amiga could do with video required tens of thousands of investment with PC; this is why TV broadcasting studios were still using Amiga for video editing all the way into the late 90s (maybe in some cases even into the 2000s) until digital video, digital broadcasting and high definition became a thing.

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Reply 203 of 229, by dr.zeissler

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Scali wrote:
Also, in my case I featured the 286 in one of my demos: http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=62165 The reason for that is that a […]
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Also, in my case I featured the 286 in one of my demos: http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=62165
The reason for that is that a fast 286 is pretty capable for 3D stuff, but the demoscene on PC didn't really take off until 386 and 486 were common. So most classic demos are 32-bit.
I wanted to do something entirely in 16-bit... So effectively I saw the 286 as an extremely fast 8088/8086, where I still had to work inside the limitations of 16-bit arithmetic and the dreaded segmented memory model (I actually stuck to 8086-only instructions, so it runs on any PC with EGA/VGA).
It makes the 286 much more interesting to code for than a 386. And the results can get quite close to 386 demos.

That 286/20 I sold to you right 😀

I love my 286/8 in my Amiga2000 with VGA/SB/LAN. Though I mostly play EGA stuff on it.

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Reply 204 of 229, by Scali

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appiah4 wrote:

What Amiga could do with video required tens of thousands of investment with PC; this is why TV broadcasting studios were still using Amiga for video editing all the way into the late 90s (maybe in some cases even into the 2000s) until digital video, digital broadcasting and high definition became a thing.

And even then you still needed expensive custom hardware.
Broadcast generally uses SDI inputs and outputs, which are not available on standard PC hardware.
Also, the issue of having to synchronize inputs and outputs together is still a thing, again, not something you can do with standard hardware.
So you still need custom hardware from brands like BlackMagic, Deltacast, Matrox etc, to get this functionality.

I think we may finally be rid of that entirely soon: broadcast signals are transmitted via the internet more and more. Which means that often you run your SDI output at the production site into an MPEG4-encoder, and then send it out as an IP stream, to decode it again at the broadcast site.
This process eliminates at least some of the synchronization: MPEG-over-ethernet breaks this... The MPEG decoder can clock out the decoded frames at a synced clock, the encoder does not need to synchronize with that.

This also means that instead of generating an SDI signal, you can make your PC generate the MPEG stream immediately, and send it over ethernet via a standard LAN port.

By the way, Newtek, the company that developed the VideoToaster, is still in business, and still offers lots of hardware.
They introduced another revolutionary technology in recent years: NDI (https://www.ndi.tv/)
The name is basically a play on SDI (Serial Digital Interface). Like SDI, NDI (Network Device Interface) allows you to transport audio and video in broadcast quality over larger distances. However, NDI uses standard ethernet cables and hardware for this, which makes it very convenient in the modern world.
It also means it's trivial to interface a PC with NDI, without requiring any of those fancy expensive SDI input/output cards. Any PC with an ethernet connection (1 gbit or better) will do.

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Reply 205 of 229, by creepingnet

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286s are not at all useless. One of my vintage boxes is a GEM 286/12 AT clone with SCSI. It even has full SVGA broadband graphical internet via Arachne 1.97 GPL. And there's a lot of games and software for DOS that run on the platform.

I kind of see the 80286 as the misunderstood and underrated red headed stepchild of the PC world.....it was never given a fair chance because DOS, Protected Mode, and Bill Gates called ng it braindead.

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Reply 207 of 229, by brostenen

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Well.... The 286 can run Monkey Island and Monkey Island II. It can run Loom, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Rockford, Commander Keen, Stuntcar Racer, Blockout, Civilization, Sim City and many more. You just need a 8 to 10 mhz 286, 640k Ram and EGA graphics.

Not a bad computer in it's own right...

Don't eat stuff off a 15 year old never cleaned cpu cooler.
Those cakes make you sick....

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Reply 208 of 229, by Grzyb

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creepingnet wrote:

I kind of see the 80286 as the misunderstood and underrated red headed stepchild of the PC world.....it was never given a fair chance because DOS, Protected Mode, and Bill Gates called ng it braindead.

So true...
Few programmers ever learned how to use 286 protected mode, tools for that were scarce, and often very late - see eg. Borland Pascal 7.0, from 1992, finally supporting 16-bit protected mode!
386 PCs were introduced only 2..3 years after IBM AT, and 32-bit made things much easier, so why would anybody bother with the dead end of 16-bit protected mode?

As a result, vast majority of 286 PCs were used as fast 8088, and never even entered protected mode - which today makes it very interesting to experiment with those few exceptions, like OS/2 1.x, Xenix, Minix, and others.

Reply 209 of 229, by pinkdonut666

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maxtherabbit wrote:

is one of those a 5162? or just a couple of 8088s lurking over there?

I wish, just a 5150 & 5160 far left, next to them is a generic 8mhz turbo XT

386SX wrote:

Awesome room! Specifications of each computer?

A little off topic, but I guess... from left to right

5150 Rev A, 16-64k board. dual tandon drives, CGA, Quadboard. 320k RAM
5160 LATE revision, 640k board, EGA, 10mb ST-412, etc.
8mhz Turbo XT clone, VGA, SB 1.5 clone, 20MB hard card, INport Bus mouse.
EARLY 386 16mhz AT clone, 2mb RAM, 80mb ST4096, ORCHID PRO designer II, SB 2.0, etc.

PC jr. umm, its a PCjr. its got a Jr IDE? nothing much else special.

most of my other systems are under the desk on shelves and I rotate to whatever I'm interested in playing with at the moment.

my life runs on X86

Reply 211 of 229, by creepingnet

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maxtherabbit wrote:
creepingnet wrote:

It even has full SVGA broadband graphical internet via Arachne 1.97 GPL.

that runs tolerably at 12MHz??

Yes, there's an APM (Arachne Package Manager) file from awhile back, and a special 286 compiled version. Not amazingly fast (actually slow enough to make the "Parsing Java....Would You Like Some Coffee??" Status messages during page loads quite hilarious and worth the wait. On rare occasion I'll run into something that requires a 386 DPMI file but most of the time it chugs away rather casually albeit surprisingly happily.

Now DOSLynx on that thing SCREAMS on broadband. Posted here on Vogons from the 286 a few months ago from Lynx.

Of course it's pretty beefy for a 286 though
- 200 watt full AT PSU
- SongCheer full AT style desktop case
- Octek Revision 5.1...i think it may be a Fox II motherboard
- Intel 10 MHz 80286 running at 12MHz due to a glitch induced by installing the 12 MHz coprocessor
- 12 MHz IIT 802c87 math coprocessor
- 6MB RAM on 30 PIN Simms (2MB on Acculogic 2MB RAMpAT card)
- TSENG ET-4000 1MB SVGA
- SoundBlaster Pro 2.0
- 3GB SCSI HDD w/ NEC 4X CD-ROM

It's limit in gaming is just a hair behind Wolfenstein 3D, which is very tolerable at worst.

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Reply 212 of 229, by maxtherabbit

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that's real similar to my 286:
12MHz Intel + 287xl copro
4MB 0-wait DRAM in DIPs onboard + 8MB 0-wait on AST Rampage+ 286 card
ET-4000 1MB
Soundblaster Pro CT1330A
2GB SCSI 7200RPM Barracuda
modern IDE CDROM

Reply 213 of 229, by Baoran

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My first ever PC was 286 that I got in 1989. 12Mhz, trident vga card, 1Mb ram and 40Mb hard drive. I only got 3 games for it back then. Wasteland, Formula 1 GP and Leisure Suit Larry. Would love to build a pc like that and install those 3 games there if I could find the parts and imagine it is 1989 again and I am buying my first PC. I would never think it as useless. It didn't even have a sound card even though I bought a sound blaster couple years later.

Reply 214 of 229, by Jo22

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brostenen wrote:

For special effect's, then try and watch this video about Babylon5 from 1994.

I have no audio at the moment, but that dude kinda reminds me of that Chekov actor of ST:TOS.. And it seems that special software they use is doing most of the work. 😉
Makes me wonder how well it would have run on other platforms of the time (486/586 PC/AT, 68030/PPC Macintosh, Acorn Archimedes).
Espcially, if use of these platforms' FPUs was made. That's something that's often forgotten when comparing Amiga with other platforms, I think.
In CAD/CAM, the use of a math-coprocessor always had been prefered. Packages like Autodesk AutoCAD/-Sketch, Animator Pro, Animation Studio
supported it from the very beginning and commercial x87 emulators were popular for a short whiie.
Same goes for simulation software (fractals, atomic models, flight sims, SimCity-type simulations etc.) likely, by the way.
That's why comparing, say, a pimped Amiga to a consumer's PC isn't quite accurate. Sure, an FPU used to be expensive,
but the performance gain it brought made the whole development more comfortable and bettered the work flow. 😀

Edit: Don't get me wrong folks. I believe that the Amiga used to be an interesting platform, similat to the Sharp X68000.
But it also had its shortcomings. Blitter and CPU could never work the same time, for example.

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Reply 215 of 229, by dr.zeissler

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if i compare the capabilities of the amiga with it's custom chips we saw these type of stutterfree effects only on 486
and soundquality with the gus. everything before did not show this quality and smoothness.

But I don't get it why people always want to see an amiga do lowres low-textured 3d, this is stupid. the amiga stands for colorfull and smooth 2d stuff.

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Reply 216 of 229, by Scali

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Jo22 wrote:

And it seems that special software they use is doing most of the work.

Special software combined with special hardware. That special hardware did not exist for other platforms, as said before, because they weren't designed with genlocking in mind, so you couldn't sync your machine to an external signal.

Jo22 wrote:

That's why comparing, say, a pimped Amiga to a consumer's PC isn't quite accurate. Sure, an FPU used to be expensive,
but the performance gain it brought made the whole development more comfortable and bettered the work flow.

Again, it's not as simple as just having an FPU or not.
It's about being able to get a broadcast signal out of your machine, and synchronizing it to external production equipment.
Since this simply wasn't possible on other platforms, the rest of your argument is moot.
The VideoToaster was built for the Amiga for this exact reason. I think you fail to understand that.
It's not a case of "what if they built the VideoToaster for PC?"... They couldn't build it for PC in the first place. If they could, they probably would have, because the PC was a more common platform, so commercially it would have made more sense. Also, by the time the VideoToaster was launched, there were PCs with much more raw processing power than an Amiga available. In that way it would also have made more sense.
So you have it backwards.
But that is exactly the thing: People who only understand PCs, can only think in terms of processing power, raw numbers etc, and cannot understand that some platforms are more than the sum of their parts.

Jo22 wrote:

But it also had its shortcomings. Blitter and CPU could never work the same time, for example.

I heard that piece of false information before. Where did you get this?
Because it is false in at least two ways.
The Amiga was specifically designed so that all the custom chips could work together independently. All chips had their own DMA channel allocated at specific slots in the scanline timing, each with their unique priority.
The blitter can obviously access memory at any point during the frame. However, the blitter can only access chip memory.
The CPU can access either chip or fast memory.
So there are two scenarios:
1) CPU accesses fastmem, blitter accesses chipmem.
In this case, they work fully independently. The CPU can read/write fastmem at every cycle, and the blitter can read/write chipmem at every cycle. They work together perfectly.
2) CPU and blitter both access chipmem.
In this case, blitter has priority over the CPU. Depending on the actual operation, the blitter may or may not try to access chipmem at every cycle. The CPU will never access memory at every cycle. The 68000 is simply not that efficient. The CPU can access the 'leftover' cycles from the blitter, so it can continue to run in parallel (and depending on the instructions, the CPU may or may not need a lot of memory acces. For example, mul and div operations take a lot of processing cycles, where no memory is accessed. These can be combined perfectly with blitter access).
In the case where the blitter uses every cycle, there is an arbitration scheme implemented:
http://amigadev.elowar.com/read/ADCD_2.1/Hard … e/node012B.html

If DMAF_BLITHOG is a 0, the DMA manager will monitor the 68000 cycle
requests. If the 68000 is unsatisfied for three consecutive memory
cycles, the blitter will release the bus for one cycle.

This is the default.
So the 68000 will never be delayed for more than 3 cycles when it tries to access the bus. This means that the CPU can still work in parallel with the blitter in these cases (and it will never slow down to less than 1/3rd of its normal speed. In practice the speed is generally much higher, because most of the time the 68000 doesn't even access half of all available memory cycles. It needs the other cycles to decode the instructions and execute them in its ALU. The 68000 also has a total of 16 registers, far more than an x86, so you can keep far more data in registers, without requiring memory access).
Essentially it's not really different from how CGA/EGA/VGA add waitstates on the bus, so the CPU cannot access VRAM at every cycle. Or how the DMA controller in the PC has priority over the CPU.
It's a limitation of the RAM speed, not of the system design. There are only so many memory cycles to go around. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
Setting DMAF_BLITHOG to 1 is something you'd only do when you want maximum performance from the blitter, and there is no need for the CPU to access any chipmem during that time (fastmem and ROM can still be accessed by the CPU in this case).

So I don't get why people would make claims that CPU and blitter cannot work together.
That implies that it's a sequentially operating system, where the blitter would 'take over' the system and the CPU would be idle until the operation is complete. That is absolutely NOT the case. The Amiga is a full multiprocessing system, with all custom chips working in parallel, and sharing of resources.

Last edited by Scali on 2019-12-14, 13:56. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 217 of 229, by spiroyster

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While CAD/CAM/CGi packages existed on all the platforms mentioned, I reckon you could count on one hand the number of places actually using PC's (x86) constructively for this kinda of work. SGI/DEC/Sun dominated this industry (emphasis on SGI!) up until the late 90's, it was only then due to the rise of cheaper 3D solutions like the Quadro that ate into SGI's market. AutoCAD up to R12/R13 still had DOS based versions (so no 3D without very specialised expensive gfx cards like Spea etc). Apple Mac's were popular before x86 for this kinda work (probably due to the better GUI/OS available before Win95 took off) which is probably also why they had this 'designer' market from earlier on compared to Windows imaging and 3D packages.

Without going the 'Alias' route (which was what Hollywood used, ILM etc), Lightwave was the only alternative for lower budget Sci-Fi TV series during the 90's that required CGi. Babylon5, SeaQuest DSV, StarTrek TNG etc all used a company called Foundation Imaging who were prominent Lightwave/Amiga users. Lightwave was written on the Amiga and coupled with the Video Toaster allowed cheaper budgets to get CGi into these lower budget TV productions. Only when Lightwave got ported to x86 in the mid 90's, perhaps they would have switched, but then again probably not immediately as PC's were relatively expensive compared to Amigas back then.. and they already had all this tech which did the job just fine.

I did work experience at a company called Kvaerner in '98 at they were chuffed because their CAD team was able to start using AutoCAD R13 in Windows and that was the first time they could use the cheaper PC x86 architecture rather than expensive alternatives (and CAD was very important in their industry, so they would have been on the forefront of these technologies). If they only started using PC's with R13 in '98, I doubt very many places used PC's before that (no doubt some places, but certainly wasn't industry standard).

When you look at the old CAD/CAM catalogues (excluding AutoCAD, which wasn't as popular as others until late 90's... again probably due to PC's suddenly being able to this sort of work) you will see there was a massive catalogue on Irix compared to other platforms. In the early/mid 90's if you wanted to do 3D CGi/CAD/CAM/CAE/FEA etc... there was only one architecture to use and that was MIPS/Irix.

So while it is romantic to think PC’s were workhorses back in the 286->486 era… the reality is PC's were probably restricted to email, spread sheets, accounting, word processing and other basic 'Office' stuff. Not Graphic Design which was a Mac realm, not 3D which was Amiga for low-budget and SGI’s for high budget, and not Computational FEA/Raytracing etc which again was SGI/DEC etc (much more throughput than x86).

Reply 218 of 229, by Scali

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spiroyster wrote:

Only when Lightwave got ported to x86 in the mid 90's, perhaps they would have switched, but then again probably not immediately as PC's were relatively expensive compared to Amigas back then.. and they already had all this tech which did the job just fine.

Rendering a 3D animation is one thing. Getting it transferred to production equipment is another.
The Amiga could sync to an external source, so it was easy to transfer to broadcast-quality videotape on-the-fly. Or send it through other equipment on-the-fly and process things in realtime.
If you can't sync, and you want perfect results, you'd need to capture your animation frame-by-frame, which is very inconvenient.

I suppose the introduction of VideoCD and DVD changed this, as the processing was no longer analog. You could now just generate an MPEG file from your PC, and play it back on professional broadcast equipment.
But that was only in the late 90s.

spiroyster wrote:

I did work experience at a company called Kvaerner in '98 at they were chuffed because their CAD team was able to start using AutoCAD R13 in Windows and that was the first time they could use the cheaper PC x86 architecture rather than expensive alternatives (and CAD was very important in their industry, so they would have been on the forefront of these technologies). If they only started using PC's with R13 in '98, I doubt very many places used PC's before that (no doubt some places, but certainly wasn't industry standard).

Yea, when I did CAD/CAM courses at university in the late 90s, we had a lab that consisted of a network of HP Apollo systems, running some UNIX variation. These systems were powered by 68030 CPUs, and had custom 3D acceleration hardware. We ran both AutoCAD and Pro/Engineer on them. No Windows or x86 yet. They only switched to Windows/x86 in the early 2000s.

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Reply 219 of 229, by spiroyster

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Scali wrote:

Yea, when I did CAD/CAM courses at university in the late 90s, we had a lab that consisted of a network of HP Apollo systems, running some UNIX variation. These systems were powered by 68030 CPUs, and had custom 3D acceleration hardware. We ran both AutoCAD and Pro/Engineer on them. No Windows or x86 yet. They only switched to Windows/x86 in the early 2000s.

Ahh yes I forgot about HP Apollo's.... I didn't have any experience with those but remember seeing them around... small white pizza boxes with oversized CRT's sat on top 😀

[EDIT:] And then ofcourse there was a whole Audio industry, idk, but pretty sure Amiga's were used extensively in that right up until late 90's?