Archive for April, 2018

Digital Equipment (DEC) VK100 “GIGI”

April 8, 2018

gigiThe Digital Equipment VK100 or „GIGI“ (General Imaging Generator and Interpreter) seems to be one of DECs approaches of creating an “intelligent” graphics terminal that is capable of processing complex graphic commands. It is not only the device for which the ReGIS system was developed, it even contained a Basic interpreter whose programs could be loaded, saved, and executed via the serial connection from the host computer. It used 8-color bitmap graphics and was based on the Intel 8085 processor. It offered a VT-52 and (some sort of) a VT-100 mode. It connected to an external Barco GD33 RGB monitor.

ReGIS, short for Remote Graphic Instruction Set, was a vector graphics markup language developed by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). ReGIS supported rudimentary vector graphics consisting of lines, circular arcs, and similar shapes. Terminals supporting ReGIS generally allowed graphics and text to be mixed on-screen, which made construction of graphs and charts relatively easy.

One thing very nice about the machine is that there is a complete set of extensive manuals available electronically.

The GIGI Basic Handbook tells us the following:

“BASIC is provided as a tool to be used in making GIGI an intelligent terminal. For this reason, only a limited amount of user memory is provided with GIGI. It is therefore recommended that applications and instructional programming be done on the host computer as there is no guarantee of source language transportability between the BASIC in this version of GIGI and that provided in the future”. Now that’s a statement you will read rarely in any manual. Basic programs can have a length up to 7.8 kB.

It also tells us of two Basic modes in GIGI:
“One mode is called local BASIC. In local BASIC mode, the terminal user is in control of the GIGI BASIC system; […] The other mode is host BASIC. in host BASIC mode, the host computer is in control of the GIGI BASIC system; commands and programs come from the host computer, and all input and output default to the host computer.”
In other words: the local Basic mode is the one we know from any other computer, and the host Basic mode gets its instructions from the serial interfaces and write its output to the serial interface.

From a collector’s point of view, the VK100 is somewhat of a conundrum. On the one side it’s only a terminal and has no mass memory interfaces. Therefore, there is also no software for it. On the other hand it’s a full-blown computer with 32 kB of RAM (16kB of which are used for graphics!) and even Basic. It connects to a high-quality monitor and is one of the earliest examples of a terminal that is intended to execute code sent by a server. It is extremely rare and virtually unknown.

Technical Data

Manufacturer: Digital Equipment (DEC)
Model: VK100 (GIGI)
Introduced in: 1982
Initial price: $1500
CPU: Intel 8085A@ 3(?)MHz
RAM: 32 kB (16 kB System RAM, 16 kB Video RAM)
ROM: 28 kB (26kB are used)
Text Modes: 84×24, 42×24
Resolution: 768×240, 8 colors
Interfaces: RS-232C, 20 mA current loop, composite video, printer
Weight: 5.7 kg

References

 

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