VOGONS


ATI Color Emulation Card

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First post, by erek

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Anyone ever spot or locate an ATI Color Emulation card?

References: http://www.vcfed.org/forum/showthread.php?292 … -Emulation-Card

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6 … eature=emb_logo

Reply 1 of 23, by Anonymous Coward

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Nope. Supposedly they were OEM-only though. I can't remember who they were supposedly made for, but I think it might have been Commodore. I looked into that theory. I think it was either the PC-10 or PC-20...but the ATi cards I saw in those were much newer than the one in question.
I guess you need to find the really old ones from 1984, because the newer models probably used new Graphics Solutions cards.

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Reply 2 of 23, by cyclone3d

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Erek... why post the same thing at Hardforum?

Anyway... posting my reply here as well since I am guessing not a lot of people here browse that forum.

For Kaypro, I think you might find that card in a 286i Model D... if it was a color card - here are a few links:

https://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer … asp?st=1&c=1044

http://www.retroarchive.org/docs/kaypro_general.pdf

https://www.techspot.com/article/650-history-of-the-gpu/

http://pycckuu.blogspot.com/2006/07/full-ati- … -1984-2006.html

But the year from the manual doesn't line up with the supposed year of introduction... manual is 1985 and the Color Emulation Card was supposedly 1986.

Do we even know if the chip was ATI branded? There is virtually no real information that I could find. It could have used some other chip and companies putting their name on cards was not a give... especially if the cards were sold to OEMs.

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Reply 3 of 23, by Benedikt

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My informed guess is that there never was a dedicated "color emulation" chip, because ASIC development is freakin' expensive and the chip would have been 90% identical to that of the "Small Wonder" Graphics Solution, anyway.
The later EGA Wonder 800+, which is essentially a VGA Wonder minus the RAMDAC and VGA connector (literally! – same PCB!), shows that ATi would happily sell partially populated boards as a separate product, provided that an OEM – in this case Commodore – would happily buy them.
It is therefore reasonable to assume that the Color Emulation Card was simply an ATi "Small Wonder" Graphics Solution with 1/4 the RAM and without composite port.

Let me reiterate that this is pure speculation, because I don't want to sell guesswork as facts.

Reply 4 of 23, by Anonymous Coward

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Graphics Solution Rev 3 already existed in 1986. If the Color Emulation Card was first, it was likely released in 1985, the same year ATi was founded. It should exist, because several years ago there was a competition to dig up ATi's earliest product, and I believe one of the founders of the company had quoted "Color Emulation Card" as being their first. Nobody was able to locate one, BTW (I think there was a cash prize too).

Also, I should let you know that I am the one that compiled the list of early ATi products, and I uploaded it to googlesites, VCfed and Wikipedia. It has been widely copied and possibly modified. In any case, at present I haven't found any information that would pin point the exact date of release, but in my opinion it should be 1985.

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Reply 5 of 23, by Benedikt

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Anonymous Coward wrote on 2020-08-03, 09:47:

Graphics Solution Rev 3 already existed in 1986. If the Color Emulation Card was first, it was likely released in 1985, the same year ATi was founded.

ATI was incorporated in August. How would they have released anything in 1985? The Graphics Solution Rev 3 board says "ATI © 1985", which is feasible, because you can prepare the board layout before the chip is ready.
The card and drivers must have been ready before the 29th of April 1986, because ATI ran an ad in that day's issue of PC Magazine, advertising the card with a big photo and screenshots.
It also mentions "CMOS VLSI Gate Array Technology", i.e. no ASIC, which explains the quick development.

Anonymous Coward wrote on 2020-08-03, 09:47:

It should exist, because several years ago there was a competition to dig up ATi's earliest product, and I believe one of the founders of the company had quoted "Color Emulation Card" as being their first. Nobody was able to locate one, BTW (I think there was a cash prize too).

Were they talking about "the ATI Color Emulation Card" or "a color emulation card"? CGA emulation was among the Graphics Solution's most important features, after all.

Anonymous Coward wrote on 2020-08-03, 09:47:

Also, I should let you know that I am the one that compiled the list of early ATi products, and I uploaded it to googlesites, VCfed and Wikipedia. It has been widely copied and possibly modified. In any case, at present I haven't found any information that would pin point the exact date of release, but in my opinion it should be 1985.

Maybe we should try to clean that up a little bit. Quite a bit of knowledge has been collected here on VOGONS in the meantime. For instance, the Wikipedia page does not mention the 640x200x16 mode, at all.

Reply 6 of 23, by Anonymous Coward

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ATI was incorporated in August. How would they have released anything in 1985?

There was no retail release of the card. It was OEM-only. Perhaps the development of the card was already finished under a different name before the company was incorporated. These are things we don't know, but perhaps we can get answers to as the founders are still living (I think). The main reason I suspect 1985, is because the Commodore PC10 was released that year, and that is the system that the card supposedly came in. I can confirm that the Graphics Solutions Rev 3 shipped in some of the later units too, so to find a "Color Emulation Card" you'd probably want a very early unit.

From what little information I was able to find, the card was called the "ATi Color Emulation Card", I don't think it was being referred to in the general sense. But who knows, because presently the existence of the card is just confirmed by word of mouth.

Plantronics mode support on the Graphics Solution was mentioned in the wiki. That is what 640x200x16 is.
Go ahead and edit/add details to the list. I did the best I could, but there are probably errors.

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Reply 7 of 23, by Benedikt

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Anonymous Coward wrote on 2020-08-03, 14:40:

These are things we don't know, but perhaps we can get answers to as the founders are still living (I think).

That's probably the only route to reliable information.

Anonymous Coward wrote on 2020-08-03, 14:40:

From what little information I was able to find, the card was called the "ATi Color Emulation Card", I don't think it was being referred to in the general sense. But who knows, because presently the existence of the card is just confirmed by word of mouth.

That makes it an interesting mystery card, indeed.
However, Commodore marketed the Graphics Solution in its machines as "PC10/PC20 Advanced Graphics Adapter", reportedly without even rebadging it. (I.e. you would never find the latter in your hardware drawer)
Maybe "Color Emulation Card" was just another name for the same card but a different OEM?
I'm just going by what makes sense and building a card than can merely emulate color but cannot display color on a color screen simply does not make any sense.

Anonymous Coward wrote on 2020-08-03, 14:40:

Plantronics mode support was mentioned. That is what 640x200x16 is.
Go ahead and edit/add details to the list. I did the best I could, but there are probably errors.

The two Plantronics modes are 320x200x16 and 640x200x4. The 640x200x16 mode appears to have been unique.

Reply 8 of 23, by Anonymous Coward

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I guess that makes sense. Plantronics cards only had 32k of RAM, ATI Graphics Solution had 64k. It's a superset of plantronics.

A card that emulates colour but doesn't display colour makes perfect sense. It was designed to simulate CGA colours as shades on a monochrome display.

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Reply 9 of 23, by rmay635703

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Does anyone have a photo of the color emulation card (or a B&W)

I may have (had) this card in my stash when I got the guts from a trashed kaypro ISA planar with an XT single board pc planar

If memory serves it was a rather simple 8 bit card with a toggle for MDA/CGA, if anyone has a photo or diagram and I recognize the card I might take The time to dig through my stash to see if it survived the great 2012 downsizing

Reply 10 of 23, by Anonymous Coward

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Nope, no photo or diagram exists (as far as I know).

"Will the highways on the internets become more few?" -Gee Dubya
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Reply 11 of 23, by rmay635703

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Anonymous Coward wrote on 2020-08-03, 15:58:

Nope, no photo or diagram exists (as far as I know).

Are there any identifying marks or labels on the card like a model # or name?

The card in question would not display Hercules graphics even on an MDA monitor (Only CGA)
and I found it to be sorta useless.
(since I had Hercules, IBM EGA and Genuine IBM CGA adapters in the stack already)

Reply 12 of 23, by Benedikt

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rmay635703 wrote on 2020-08-03, 17:10:

Are there any identifying marks or labels on the card like a model # or name?

How would we know?

rmay635703 wrote on 2020-08-03, 17:10:

The card in question would not display Hercules graphics even on an MDA monitor (Only CGA)
and I found it to be sorta useless.
(since I had Hercules, IBM EGA and Genuine IBM CGA adapters in the stack already)

That is not particularly surprising. It probably had 16KiB of RAM, only.

How well do you remember the card?
Did it have a dedicated CRTC (40 pin DIP) and a gate array similar to that on the ATI Graphics Solution (i.e. really big square PLCC)?
I.e. did it look similar to this ATI Graphics Solution, but with less RAM (the stuff on the left side)?

Reply 13 of 23, by rmay635703

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All I remember about the card was that it was small for the 8 but era, had a small bank of ram and a metal toggle switch to the outside of the case.

I will need to dig and see if I can find it with the kaypro stuff

Reply 15 of 23, by Anonymous Coward

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Ah, somebody finally found one. Pretty cool.

The IC on there is from the second half of 1986, so it's probably a stripped down version of their Graphics Solution? Maybe kind of like the 1024 series? I wonder if any of the graphical functionality has be intentionally gimped too.

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Reply 16 of 23, by Benedikt

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Interesting.
So it does have the same gate array, just like I assumed.
It is also not a pure color emulation card, because it clearly has a composite video header and there are too many traces running to the DE9 socket.
There is no 16(.257)MHz oscillator, though, i.e. the MDA/Hercules pixel clock is missing, but the 14.31818MHz from the ISA bus are obviously still there.
720 / 16.257 * 14.31818 = 634.132349142 and 720 / 16 * 14.31818 = 644.3181, which makes perfect sense, since it is a CGA emulation card.
What is intriguing, though, is that it has 32 rather than just 16 KiB of RAM.
I therefore assume that it is in fact a Plantronics + Plantronics emulation card.

Reply 17 of 23, by rmay635703

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@Benedikt I believe the idea of that card was that you could switch and choose mono or CGA monitors with the same card

(even though both were CGA resolution for graphics )

I wonder if that is a later rev Color Emulation card and ATI just used the name for their entry level solution?

(See rev4 in the corner? Rev1b was slightly different)

Ah well, maybe when I move I will run into my card again

Reply 18 of 23, by mkarcher

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Benedikt wrote on 2020-12-22, 13:24:

It is also not a pure color emulation card, because it clearly has a composite video header and there are too many traces running to the DE9 socket.

Note that it says "Color / Emulation card", not "Color Emulation Card" on the PCB. This could point to the card being a "color card" or an "emulation card", depending on setup.

Reply 19 of 23, by Benedikt

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Good point! I missed that somehow.

It just occurred to me that the switch settings might be similar to those of the ATI Graphics Solution.
The following diagram is from its manual. (AGA is Commodore's OEM name for that card.)

aga_switch_settings.png
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Assuming that the meaning of the individual switches is the same, the depicted Color/Emulation Card is configured for a "Monochrome or RGB" screen in "Emulation" mode.
The first four switches are missing, but only the fourth would be used anyway, namely to switch composite video between color and monochrome.
So maybe it does not support color composite.