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Thread: Digital GiGi VK100 colour graphics terminal

  1. #1
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    Question Digital GiGi VK100 colour graphics terminal

    Hello everyone,

    It seems there is a broken VK100 / GiGi terminal waiting for me to repair.
    But I had never heard about a GiGi before...

    The story: I was talking to a PDP11 specialist about a VT340. I was surprised by the existence
    of a DEC colour graphics terminal. But it seems to be compatible with the Tektronix 4010
    monochrome and 4027 colour terminals. I thought that was quite logical.
    Also the Intecolor 2427 was a Tektronix compatible model. I new there were also
    Wyse terminals which are Tek compatible...

    Then he talked about the existence of a GiGi terminal.

    With the GiGi I'm lost... The GiGi seems to have a ReGIS protocol.
    Can't these GiGi terminals run in Tektronix compatible mode?
    The 4027 was introduced in 1978 and the GiGi somewhere in 1981...
    Both vector based graphics...

    Does anyone have or know about software to use the graphics on a GiGi?
    And are there any SIMH emulators for the GiGi? Or maybe programs to
    translate Tek to ReGIS? It would be fun to fix such a terminal, but then I
    would love see the terminal do some graphics as well...

    Here is a nice Rubiks Cube on a GiGi:
    https://twitter.com/sdf_pubnix/statu...59519105163264

    Regards, Roland
    Last edited by Roland Huisman; February 15th, 2021 at 11:10 AM.
    WTB: Case for Altair 8800 ...... Rolands Github projects

  2. #2
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    I did use ReGIS on a VT240 terminal back in the day to show projected 3D graphics / diagrams of simulation results. It was a simple protocol, so translating TEK4014 -> ReGIS should not be difficult.
    Software was written in VAX Pascal.

    Jos

  3. #3

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    There is an emulation of the GIGI in MAME under VK100. I haven't played with it much so I'm not sure how complete it is. There are several applications that use ReGIS such as DECslide and DECgraph. I think PGPLOT can also generate ReGIS output. I don't know if the VK100 can do it but later terminals such as the VT240, VT330 and VT340 could also display sixel graphics. Also note that a standard DECterm can display both ReGIS and sixel graphics.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by jdreesen View Post
    I did use ReGIS on a VT240 terminal back in the day to show projected 3D graphics / diagrams of simulation results. It was a simple protocol, so translating TEK4014 -> ReGIS should not be difficult.
    Software was written in VAX Pascal.

    Jos
    VT125 also does REGIS. It is essentially an extra 8085 based board that hooks in on the serial coms connector and listens to certain escape sequences which it process while acting as a bridge for the rest of the communication.

    Way back in the mid eighties I laid my hands on a VT125 and connected it to a Philips 8533 monitor. Was able to draw some small things using the REGIS protocol. Gnuplot apparently can handle REGIS.

  5. #5
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    The GIGI is more than a terminal. It's a microcomputer. Yet another example of something DEC did early on bit still didn't enable them to understand the home computer market, or the PC.
    It can run as a terminal, or running the built-in MS BASIC selected through the setup.
    Rather cool piece of hardware.

    Mandatory bitsavers link: http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/dec/terminal/gigi/

    Oh, and as far as software goes. Anything that speaks ReGIS should be able to play with a GIGI as well.
    Several programs have been mentioned in the thread already...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdreesen View Post
    I did use ReGIS on a VT240 terminal back in the day to show projected 3D graphics / diagrams of simulation results. It was a simple protocol, so translating TEK4014 -> ReGIS should not be difficult.
    To be honest, I was wondering if it is worth the effort to edit the firmware
    which supports Tektronix data. But I think the source is not available...?

    Quote Originally Posted by 9track View Post
    There is an emulation of the GIGI in MAME under VK100. I haven't played with it much so I'm not sure how complete it is. There are several applications that use ReGIS such as DECslide and DECgraph. I think PGPLOT can also generate ReGIS output.
    Interesting... Do the DECslide, DECgraph and PGPLOT also run on a (small) PDP11?
    Or do you need a more powerful vax for that?

    Quote Originally Posted by bqt View Post
    The GIGI is more than a terminal. It's a microcomputer. Yet another example of something DEC did early on bit still didn't enable them to understand the home computer market, or the PC. It can run as a terminal, or running the built-in MS BASIC selected through the setup. Rather cool piece of hardware.
    Yes I understood that it is a BASIC machine. But I don't see any option to connect any storage in the documentation.
    So I guess you can't use it as a real computer...?

    Regards, Roland
    WTB: Case for Altair 8800 ...... Rolands Github projects

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roland Huisman View Post
    Interesting... Do the DECslide, DECgraph and PGPLOT also run on a (small) PDP11?
    Or do you need a more powerful vax for that?
    Unfortunately, I have seen very little software for the PDP-11 that talks ReGIS.
    Quote Originally Posted by Roland Huisman View Post
    Yes I understood that it is a BASIC machine. But I don't see any option to connect any storage in the documentation.
    So I guess you can't use it as a real computer...?

    Regards, Roland
    There are no "local" offline storage, no. You were expected to either just write software locally, and just have it running while the machine was on, and then loose it, or else have a backend machine upload software over serial, which in a way do imply storage.

    So - write software on your PDP-11 or VAX, and then upload and run on your GiGi.

  8. #8

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    We had a pair or 3 GiGis in the computer lab in University. I never knew that they had a BASIC built it, we used them solely as terminals.

    The modern xterm has direct support for ReGIS graphics, however it may not be enabled in the build on your distribution.

    I've dabbled with it once, got it built and running, but didn't push it to any kind of limits.

    GNUPlot will create ReGIS graphics files as well.

    I can't speak to any Tektronix compatibility.

    The ReGIS is also known for its use of Sixels for bitmap graphics.

    The system was good for rendering graphics, but wasn't really useful for animation. A lot of that could be changed with baud rate.

  9. #9
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    Sixel is actually not at all related to, or connected with ReGIS.
    If you are in ReGIS mode, you can't do sixel. On graphics terminals that do both you need to exit ReGIS mode before you can do any sixel graphics. And there are printers that understands sixel, but no ReGIS (LA50, LA75 and LN03 for example).
    Not sure if there are any printers who understands ReGIS actually...

    As for xterm, I know it started getting sixel capabilities a few years ago, but I was not aware of any ReGIS capabilities. But I should check then...

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by bqt View Post
    Unfortunately, I have seen very little software for the PDP-11 that talks ReGIS.
    There was a package of demonstration programs for the VK100 under RSTS/E (they were written in Basic-Plus and not Microsoft BASIC, so they ran on the PDP-11).

    There are no "local" offline storage, no. You were expected to either just write software locally, and just have it running while the machine was on, and then loose it, or else have a backend machine upload software over serial, which in a way do imply storage.
    As I recall, there was support in the VK100 for upload/download from a host RSTS/E system via a BASIC support program on the RSTS/E end.

    GiGos were miserable little things which seemed to exist mainly for the purpose of offloading way-overpriced Barco monitors. SPC got suckered into buying a PDP-11/24 with dual RL02s, a DZ11 and not much else (82F31469X was the system serial number - this was so painful it is still burned into my memory even today), along with a gaggle of 16 GiGos. Also supposedly included was a CAI authoring package which our sales rep claimed would run under RSTS/E on the 11/24. She didn't know that it was only available on VAX/VMS, and the powers-that-be at SPC had a conniption when they got the answer to "How much extra will that cost?"

    At the time we were exclusively Data General for timesharing (see my comments about RDOS XBASIC, 64 terminals, yadda-yadda in another forum here) and I was distinctly unimpressed with the 11/24, despite it being 6 years newer than the base harware for my 'franken-clipse'. Not a great start to our modern relationship with DEC*.

    I made our displeasure known to our sales rep, local management and regional management. We got a new sales rep (for free) and an 11/44 with FP, 2MB, 4 DZ11s and dual RK07's (also for free). I believe that one was 83031162F.

    We used the GiGos as terminals in one of our computer labs until 1987 or so, when I made a deal with DEC to buy 102 VT102s for $102 each** (it was a finagle done at a DECUS Symposium, which combined the Symposium discount with the sale discount and the educational discount plus an addtional incentive discount to just get me out of the booth ). One of the bizarre design tradeoffs in the GiGo was that the size of a character cell was not the size of a color cell, so you couldn't have different colors on adjacent characters without it looking like something was very wrong. The GiGos were generally reliable except for the keyboards and a power supply or two.

    * SPC was a very early DEC customer. It tended to weird people out when places like DECdirect asked for our DEC customer number and I would answer "316".

    ** That wasn't actually the most advantageous deal I ever made with DEC. My record is trading a Gandalf Quad PACX IV (2 full H960 cabinets) that had 512 terminal ports and 128 host ports for a pair of DECserver 550's, one full of 8-line CXY08 modem-control line cards and the other full of CXA16 local terminal line cards. We actually ended up with DEC owing us a credit on that deal (negative cost to us), plus they promised to come haul away the Gandalf gear for free.

    *** Don't get me started on the Customer Returns Center. The joke was that we'd send it to DEC at Andover. And over. And over. And over, till they eventually fixed whatever we sent back properly. One time I send a VK100 keyboard back and they shipped me a package back where they had drilled out the rivets holding the metal brackets to the PCB and de-soldered the ribbon cable from the PCB, with a note saying "Next time please remove all optional accessories before returning hardware". Some time later, the repaired keyboard showed up, complete with new brackets and ribbon cable.

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