Robert Wilson writes:
Rines Engineering was Steve Rines, Rich Ketcham and Robert Wilson. We got together to build a video board
to augment the alpha display of the AIM 65.
Collins Radio had a program where anyone could get an AIM 65 that wanted one using payroll deduction and everyone
got one. The problem was that no one liked the small display. At the same time Motorola just came out with
a video chip that was designed to run an RF modulator. Since the chip had an alphanumeric mode an idea was
born, a simple hook into the alpha routines for the display and the same thing is on a TV, 40 lines and all.
Looking deeper into the video chip showed the graphic modes and all of a sudden we're talking computer graphics
using an AIM 65. That, coupled with a light pen input, we had the basis for computer games as well. We now had
what we wanted - our own graphics platform. The video-1 was starting to take shape.
At the time, Texas Instruments was the RAM supplier in our minds. Also to keep the decoding and driver
circuitry simple, we used static RAMs. At the time the 2114 was the densest available and Collins used them
everywhere, so we were used to them and could buy them out of internal parts. And the AIM 65 used the 2114s
as well. Filling out the RAM memory map of the AIM 65 using 2114s along with the video section and decoding
took a lot of real estate. It was then decided to make the board even bigger so it was the same size as the
AIM 65 and could be bolted under it and both would still fit in the available cases.
There was room left over so in goes the A/D and D/A sections to give us even more flexibility and a prototype
area. We quickly realized the complexity of the graphics modes was such that as a game/graphics device platform
there just wasn't a lot of people that had bought an AIM 65 that would be able to take the time to develop them.
So Rich put together a system of graphics routines that provided circles and line drawing, as well as a slew
of other graphic functions. In order to give those functions a home, we found room for 2K of PROM space by
shrinking the prototype area, and Rich squeezed his routines into the 2K footprint. The Video-1 was born.
This was our original plan. To prove we could and to provide each of us with a graphics interface for our own
use and development efforts.
The first prototypes had some problems - a little timing here, a little signal gating there. The end result was
a board that "worked" using spare gates on board but had a lot of 30 gauge hookup wire on the back. Maybe two
dozen of them. These things were brittle and came off easily. We now were firmly convinced that we weren't
building a toy for us, we really had something here. In order to make it sellable for everyone else, we
modified the layout to get rid of the wires. Now we have the Video-1a board. The first run was 800 boards and
we got Collins to put together parts kits to populate the boards. With Rich's graphics routines available, the
boards had real engineer toy appeal and we sold the lot and kept some for ourselves. This was how I spent my
free time in 1980. Starting with Steve's dream of video and finishing with the Video-1a board. Steve and I would
work days developing the LRA-700 radio altimeter computer boards for the new Boeing 767 series airframes and
nights on the video board. We were quite the pair.
Now that we had a graphic platform, Steve and I wanted something that was like the AIM 65 but didn't have the
alphanumeric or printer. We could bolt this on top of the Video-1a board and leverage what we knew about the
AIM 65 even further. This board used the resulting empty space to provide for enough EPROM space to hold the
original AIM 65 monitor minus the printer layers, as well as 32K of switchable EPROM space that allowed for
us to use any language we wanted at will. At the time this was PL65, BASIC, FORTH and a few home brews of my own.
FORTH being my personal favorite followed by PL65, after all anybody could do BASIC :)
This brought us into 1981 and Steve's job took him to work field service to liaison the finished LRA-700
altimeter for acceptance by the Boeing folks. He moved to Seattle, Washington, and we lost touch. The Real-1
boards only produced a dozen prototypes, but we had fun.
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