Color NeXTcube

Scholars will object, and they will be right: this model was not. This is one of the configurations the same, normal, NeXTcube. In a color cube can be turned and NeXT Computer. But this fact does not change: the result was stunning.

Continued. The previous series here, here, here, here, here and here, here, here,here.

In the previous part we talked about the NeXTstation Color, black computer case just above the body of the Macintosh Centris 610, the first time in history provided the usual “advanced” users to access 16-bit true color. For only 7 $ 995, theoretically. (Disk 105 megabytes, it was necessary either to replace the disk with a larger capacity, or to purchase external).

16-bit color, looking at the screen almost like 32-bit has been a godsend for engineers, physicians, designers, scientists, and advertisers. But for those who needed a real, uncompromising color graphics, it was not enough.

According to indirect data, in 1987 a team of specialists in computer color worked exclusively uncompromising, 16-bit, solution. NeXTstation were not even in the project, and the task was one of those “mission impossible”. Then someone crazy enough to come to this decision, and having enough power to turn it into a real project, launched the development of a NeXTstation color option.

The basic version was prepared later than the minor – but it was he who created a storm in the computer industry, pushing competitors to feats and becoming for them something like a hare at high speed driven cross-country before a pack of dogs.


The name translates as “the next dimension”. So, not even something else: no matter what other dimensions they were able to penetrate by force of intellect, imagination or other intangible phenomena, customers were offered the “next dimension”.

Is an expansion card for bus extension, as nubus and NeXTbus that turns NeXTcube and its predecessor, the cubic form in a workstation with support for colors not worse than more expensive specialized workstations.

It was built around the Intel i860 64-bit RISC processor, with a capacity of 60-80 MFLOPs. In those days, even 10 MFLOPs was a miracle. Millions of operations on floating point numbers. The CPU was established in 1989, just four years after announced by Steve jobs dreams of Paul Berg on the computer, “3M”, where one “em” stands for “one million megaflop”.

NeXTdimension was used in the Intel i860 processor with a clock frequency of 33 MHz.

The fee was included in one (any) of expansion slots Cuba (as in the NeXTcube and NeXT Computer), consumed a standard extension 25 watts, and set myself to work with the main Board of the computer.

On the Board was located 8 megabytes of memory expansion (expandable to 32 MB), 4 megabyte RAM, controllers for input and output S-Video output RGB, and so much more.

In the “next dimension” was implemented partial support for Mach, and the full support of PostScript.

NeXT were Grand plans for this expansion, and might-have – NeXTdimension did not appear the implementation of Display PostScript, the work on the new version of the NeXTdimension was discontinued in 1993.

Enough technical details, let’s talk about the results.

Worked with NeXTdimension 32-bit graphics display with a resolution of 1120х832 faster than NeXTcub was controlled with 2-bit graphics on a normal MegaPixel.

September 18, 1991, Steve has demonstrated, in fact, augmented reality: its image was applied to the video input NeXTcube with the beta version NeXTdimension, and the output on the screen he was displayed in real time with the wizard of Oz (or, as said in the beginning of the 90s, “the wizard of the country’s zero-three,” is the call number of the ambulance).

Cost “the next dimension” 7 $ 115.

For the NeXTcube with NeXTdimension Board pre-installed, took about 15 thousand. But a 105-megabyte disk for a very color workstation was not just a little, a little dramatically.

All the cubes of the NeXT – colored

Connection NeXTdimension in the expansion of any of the cubes from NeXT, no extra action on the part of the owner of the cube and the card, turned the “personal workstation” computer in an uncompromising capabilities in color management.

It was already a machine for professionals in the field of computer graphics, animation, and much more. Its sales could be much greater if not for Steve: as far as I know, Pixar has not acquired any color NeXT.

I admit that Steve just couldn’t look at them, and that workstations from Silicon Graphics in a calm and cube, but… That would be convincing, even if it would not be entirely true (and they were used exclusively for business correspondence).

However, it is not my field and I can not judge.

The best effect was achieved when installed in a NeXTcube NeXTdimension. 68040 three times higher than in the first 68030 cube performance and the main processor complex involved in non-magic.

The old cube was to upgrade to a NeXTcube by replacing the main PCB with the new one.

The old Board had to be present when purchasing the upgrade, and return it on NeXT, but it was worth the upgrade for only 1 495$. In this case, the performance of the complex is almost no different from NeXTcube+NeXTdimension.

The only limitation that it was impossible to get around – NeXTdimension worked only under NeXTSTEP 2.1 or higher. Better in NeXTSTEP 2.2.

And any cube from the NeXT, with a set extension NeXTdimension, could work with two monitors (black-and-white and color) at the same time, however, their screen space become United in a General, depending on the wishes of the user connecting horizontally or vertically.

Intel RISC’uet and loses…

RISC-processor Intel i860 (80860) was used not only in the NeXTdimension, 60-80 megaflop in those years was a strong argument, but, despite the success, commercial success did not.

According to Andy grove, head of Intel, in the 90s clients are not able to understand which way to go Intel, and which of the processors “to put” – what to use in my projects?

In that time, the company promoted at the same time, the 80486 and 80860.

Previous attempts to switch to Intel new architecture, too, ended in failure. Comes to mind iAPX 432 in the early 80’s and RISC processors from the Intel i960 in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

All these architectures were great, but something went wrong and the success they had.

Fred Pollack, chief engineer of the team iAPX 432 and the chief architect of i960, up to the publication they developed the Pentium Pro (80686) never succeeded.

In the end, Intel has come to the conclusion that the practical side is more important than ideology, and has ceased to spend tens of millions on “Grand projects”, and…

To be continued, it is time to deal with Display PostScript…

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