Was Acorn the first?


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Was Acorn the first?

Postby John M Ward » Wed, 17 Nov 2004 09:02:14 GMT

I occasionally like to reminisce, and it has seemed to me that a lot of
what is now accepted as standard stuff I first saw on Acorn computers. 
Now, knowing that my experience isn't as great or diverse as that of some
here, I thought it might be worth asking if anyone knows of earlier
versions of:

(a)  an icon bar or equivalent pre August 1988 when RISC OS 2 was first
shown at a public exhibition (the PCW Show);

(b)  a button bar or equivalent prior to ArcWriter's release in late-1988;

(c)  anti-aliased screen display font technology before the Archimedes'
bitmap (later outline) font technology?

I'm sure there are others I could mention, but I didn't want to make too
big a thing of this, at least not at the outset.

John M Ward : RISC OS computing since 1987, now Iyonix-powered!
Acorn/RISC OS web page: www.argonet.co.uk/users/johnward/john/computers

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby Rob Davison » Wed, 17 Nov 2004 09:47:37 GMT

Ah, nostalgia ain't what it used to be!

Didn't AMX do something similar 'a desktop' for the BBC B?
(no idea now how practical it was...I'm guessing not very.)

This is also pretty blooming impressive for 1980:
 http://www.**--****.com/ :Xerox_star_desktop.jpg

Surely something Macintosh and/or GEMish did that first?
The AMX mouse stuff for the beeb also used these I'm sure.

There are demos of this in Foly, vanDam et.all attributed to 'YODA
display' (Satish Gupta, IBM T.J.Watson Research Centre'). Google on
that returns dates circa 1986 so we were pipped at the post.

I think Acorn were definitely the first to put it into a mainstream
computer operating system though.

Incidentally, Dave Clare once told me that they (Clares) were involved
in creating the specifications for the Acorn fontmanager (having done
something fontish in the last days of the BBC B) but I don't know all
of the details or who did the work. I'd buy him a pint for sure...

This might be of interest:  http://www.**--****.com/ 

Somebody really should be writing a History of Acorn - while most of
those who were involved are still with us...

Maple Glen   http://www.**--****.com/ 
Images       http://www.**--****.com/ 

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby druck » Wed, 17 Nov 2004 10:29:12 GMT

It was an Apple style menu at the top of the screen.


The ARM Club Free Software -  http://www.**--****.com/ 
The 32bit Conversions Page -  http://www.**--****.com/ 

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby Rob Davison » Wed, 17 Nov 2004 13:38:16 GMT

You've prompted me to have a dig around as I'd made one of their
programs (purely for mine own personal amu{*filter*}t you understand!)
run on the Archimedes in mode 18.

Zicon it was called. A 3D editor.


Looks a fair bit like an iconbar to me.

Running inside an emulated A310 on an Iyonix it must still be several
dozen times faster than the original - and isn't that one *seriously*
cool jet? ;-)

I'm now very tempted to mess around and make it run native on an
Iyonix with lovely antialiased lines...

Maple Glen   http://www.**--****.com/ 
Images       http://www.**--****.com/ 

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby Sophie Wilson » Wed, 17 Nov 2004 22:40:26 GMT

ob Davison < XXXX@XXXXX.COM > wrote in
news:K6cmd.2621$ XXXX@XXXXX.COM :

There was also research in the Cambridge Computer Lab - the Rainbow
group and the Rainbow terminal. I've attached a bibliography - there was
a lot of much earlier work than 1986.

Nobody used anti-aliasing correctly then, many still don't - in
particular items such as sub-pixel placement of characters within a
rendered string and a filter which matches the transfer characteristics
of the monitor (most notably being based on a Gaussian decay and having
knowledge of the different behaviour horizontally and vertically) are
hard. (Thank you to David Seal for deriving the filter coefficient
values for me...)

Yes, I do too. :-)

Anti-alias design: me. Anti-alias coding me, Neil Raine. Bitmap font work
for ARX: me. Bitmap font work for Arthur: Neil Raine (I think - I'm a bit
vague on this - I know I wrote !FontCtrl). Outline font work: Neil Raine,
William Stoye and I - DTS came along later and helped on specific hinting
measures. Font manager interface: Neil Raine, William Stoye and I and
some of the early ISVs - I don't remember Clares specifically being
involved, but it seems quite likely - GST certainly were. I think I'm
mostly responsible for the notion of "paint with erase".

Much too late for that.


Bige83 Bigelow, C. and D. Day, ``Digital Typography,'' Scientific
Volume 249, Number 2, August 1983, pp. 106-119.

Blac46 Blackwell, H. R., ``Contrast Thresholds of the Human Eye,''
of the Optical Society of America, Volume 36, 1946, pp. 642-

Bruc86 Bruckstein, A. M., ``On Optimal Image Digitization,''
Engineering Publication Number 577, Faculty of Electrical
Engineering, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa,
February 1986.

Buck77 Buckler, A. T., ``A Review of the Literature on the Legibility
AlphaNumerics on Electronic Displays,'' Technical Memo 16-77,
U. S.
Army Human Engineering Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground,
May 1977.

Catm79 Catmull, E., ``A Tutorial on Compensation Tables,'' Computer
Graphics, Volume 13, Number 2, August 1979, pp. 1-7. SIGGRAPH

Corn70 Cornsweet, T. N., Visual Perception, Academic Press, New York,

Crow78 Crow, F. C., ``The Use of Grayscale for Improved Raster Display
Vectors and Characters,'' Computer Graphics, Volume 12, Number
August 1978, pp. 1-6. SIGGRAPH 1978 Proceedings.

Goul84 Gould, J. D. and N. Grischkowsky, ``Doing the Same Work with
Copy and with Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT) Computer Terminals,''
Factors, Volume 26, Number 3, June 1984, pp. 323-337.

Gupt81 Gupta, S. and R. F. Sproull, ``Filtering Edges for Gray-Scale
Displays,'' Computer Graphics, Volume 15, Number 3, August
1981, pp.
1-5. SIGGRAPH 1981 Proceedings.

Kaji81 Kajiya, J. and M. Ullner, ``Filtering High Quality Text for
on Raster Scan Devices,'' Computer Graphics, Volume 15, Number
August 1981, pp. 7-15. SIGGRAPH 1981 Proceedings.

Koba80 Kobayashi, S. C., ``Optimization Algorithms for Grayscale
B. Sc. Thesis, Department of Electrical Engineering and
Science, Massachu

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby Theo Markettos » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 03:54:43 GMT

Sophie's given a more than comprehensive bibliography - the only relevant
local reference I can find easily is:

A Soft-edged Character Set and its Derivation, A.J. Wilkes and N.E. Wiseman,
Computer Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp 140-147, February 1982.

which is basically talking about super-sampling mostly high resolution bitmap
fonts to low resolution displays, though it does briefly mention vectors.
Was the Arthur font manager based on downsampling high resolution bitmaps,
or did it just store antialiased characters directly?


Rainbow Group, University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory
(speaking personally)

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby Rob Davison » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 04:06:47 GMT

[Anti-aliased fonts]

Who'd argue with that? :-)

Correction: her a pint! :-)

Something else we owe you for.


I suppose not enough people would buy it now to make the task
commercially viable. There were some wonderful stories and
fascinating characters involved though - and I only heard
(and met) a very few of them.

Thanks for the bibliography.

Maple Glen   http://www.**--****.com/ 
Images       http://www.**--****.com/ 

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby squidge » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 04:10:08 GMT

<snipped very interesting info>

Thanks for telling us this, and it's good to see you on here again :-)


Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby Simon Willcocks » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 04:11:48 GMT

In message <K6cmd.2621$ XXXX@XXXXX.COM >

It was, but someone should ask them to update their links, when the new
riscos/riscosdevelopments websites come online.



Don't exist any more.

Eiffel and RISC OS - Better alternatives.

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby Qercus editor » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 04:38:20 GMT

In article <9dsmd.2900$ XXXX@XXXXX.COM >, Rob Davison
< XXXX@XXXXX.COM > wrote then responded to Sophie Wilson's

If anyone thinks they could put together a series of articles on the
subject then we may well be interested in publishing them.

John Cartmell editor Qercus  -  XXXX@XXXXX.COM   www.qercus.com
	Qercus: a fusion of Acorn Publisher & Acorn User magazines
	one magazine for all RISC OS users
	Finnybank Ltd 30 Finnybank Rd Sale M33 6LR  == 0161 969 9820

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby Mark » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 04:39:26 GMT

In message < XXXX@XXXXX.COM >

I always understood that a lot of the groundbreaking stuff was done by
Xerox at their Palalto (sp?) labs at the time that everyone else was
doing text displays and the Atom was quite advanced.

I saw a graphical display WP machine from Xerox in Circa 1975 as a
business show in the NEC (my mother taught business studies at the
time).  I also avidly read Personal Comuter World which described this
and more.

IIRC the mouse (with three buttons), pull down and pop up menus,
windows and icon bars were all developed by them.  Apple adapted some
parts but Acorn more closely followed the Xerox Model in RISC OS. (again
reported in PCW at the time)

M$ designers probably don't know what they are really working
towards/away from!

Mark Foweraker

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby Adam » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 04:54:54 GMT

I dropped them a line. (But it looks like the page hasn't been updated 
in a long time, so I'm not holding my breath.)


Adam Richardson
Email me at: monkeyadam~but.not.this.monkey~@ntlworld.com
Carpe Diem

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby David » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 05:16:19 GMT

In message <9dsmd.2900$ XXXX@XXXXX.COM >

I've followed the Acorn sagas since 1981 - it would make a best seller
in terms of anecdotes and economics and business... if only ...
Dave Wisnia, Leeds

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby David » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 05:20:13 GMT

In message < XXXX@XXXXX.COM >

To add to my last post ... and technology!
Dave Wisnia, Leeds

Re: Was Acorn the first?

Postby druck » Thu, 18 Nov 2004 05:39:57 GMT

I've not seen that before. I was thinking of the original AMX ROM with AMX
Art and AMX Pagemaker applications, these were inspired by the Apple look
and feel, as there obviously wasn't anything else about to copy at the time.


The ARM Club Free Software -  http://www.**--****.com/ 
The 32bit Conversions Page -  http://www.**--****.com/ 

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