IRIX 6.5 Screen Savers

Ryan Holtz has been making MAME's SGI Indy emulation work, and just posted a tour of the default screen savers as of 2006.

Honestly, their screensaver game was not strong. They had better demos. I'm assuming that they hadn't updated the default savers since 1988 -- and back then, the speed of many of these was very impressive. Not so much by 2006.

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15 Responses:

  1. nucholab says:

    Are any of these already in Xscreensavers?

  2. Zygo says:

    OK, so the hopalong fractals were called..."space plants?" Am I reading that right?

    hopalong was a popular algorithm in the late 1980's, and was featured in a Mathematical Recreations column in Scientific American which was a physical paper magazine that occasionally appeared in my mailbox. I read the article (it was printed on shiny paper, the kind that's hard to read with desk lamp glare), and implemented hopalong in BASIC on a machine that could draw maybe 60 pixels per second, after hours of micro-optimization and 2x overclocking the CPU, in white on a black background. I remember setting up some parameters, going to bed at night with a blank screen with a handful of dots on it, and waking up in the morning to run downstairs and see what my brand new...um...I guess we call them space plants now?...looked like.

    At the time, I also had some kind of chemistry kit that could be mail-ordered from advertisers in comic books, that precipitated intricate crystal structures on liquid if you got the concentrations right and left it alone for some hours or days. If you had certain mineral contaminants in your well water, as I did, you got a foul-smelling cloudy liquid with some brownish lumps in the bottom. The pictures of the intended fully-formed colorful structures looked like plants from space. I don't remember the trade name, but they definitely were not called hopalongs.

    That was the first Mathematical Recreations column I ever read. I have to say I found most of Gartner's other articles disappointing (but I was 14 13 much younger then, and didn't appreciate the other topics like RSA cryptography). Hopalong was fun to watch when it was raining and the TV didn't work! A 1024-bit prime number would have taken a week to generate, and then what, I'd...print it out? Opportunities for mathematical entertainment were limited in 1987.

    Some years later, I encountered the xlock/xscreensaver implementations (and a few DOS demos), which could fill a 1800x larger framebuffer just under two million times faster, with delays inserted to slow it down. Whenever I see these fractal generators running somewhere, I am reminded that I failed to spend my youth optimally.

    • jwz says:

      Ages and ages ago, a friend told me that the first time he had seen someone's fancy new Mandelbrot generator laboriously cranking out the scalines one at a time he asked "What's wrong with this thing?" because before that he had only seen Mandelbrot generators running on a Connection Machine. Splat. Zoom. Splat. Zoom.

    • David E. Konerding says:

      Nice to hear this. I wrote a mandelbrot generator in BASIC shortly after learning z = z**2 + c for my Apple IIe and remember wondering if I could leave the computer on overnight and whether it would overheat. Woke up to... the first boring scan lines with single-color contours, it hadn't even made it to the edges of the set yet.

      Shortly after I bought a PC and got FracInt which did all the work using integer math (486-era didn't have floating point, or it was very slow) and I could begin deep exploration of the set.

  3. erlogan says:

    I still use Stonerview on my work machine, which really impresses The Youths when I tell them where it came from, so the IRIX screensaver game wasn't all bad.

    Come to think of it, I might be the only person with a screensaver in my entire office. Kids these days.

    • jwz says:

      Electropaint was much more capable than Stonerview. Someone gave me a copy of (what may be) the Electropaint code a while back, but the licensing was unclear so I never bothered to do a real port...

      • erlogan says:

        I do miss the flippy squares and trippy camera, but also appreciate the stolid minimalism of the reimplementation, since the swirly bits are the best part IMO.

        If you were to hack it in, I'd be pretty happy (especially since graphics programming is bit far from my usual sysadminny bailiwick, which precludes me from doing it myself), but it's also cool as it is.

  4. Unxmaal says:

    @jwz the SGI Dev group's offer to assist resurrect your O2 still stands.

    One of us! One of us!

  5. vince says:

    I was in awe of the SGI screensavers when I first encountered them, around 1995 or so, mostly because my only basis for comparison was the default screensavers from windows 3.1. I guess it also helped the Indigo 2 I was seeing them on was an order of magnitude better than any other hardware I had access to at the time.

  6. Line Noise says:

    Weird, I don't remember ever seeing "Falls" before. Maybe by the time it was released I was running XScreenSaver on my SGI so I never noticed it.

  7. robert_ says:

    I got a bigger thrill out of seeing the 4Dwm desktop - I've always thought it was one of the best and most stylish window managers.

  8. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    So weird because when I had an Indy on my desk, I ran XScreenSaver on it, not the Irix ones. Nostalgia is easy but the thing I remember most vividly about the Indy was when we replaced them with dual Pentium Pro PCs running Windows NT, everything (Pro/ENGINEER-wise) got times faster.

    • jwz says:

      One of the most interesting things about the SGI hardware was that it was capable of having multiple PseudoColor colormaps installed at the same time -- you could have multiple 8-bit windows side by side with different colormaps and they would all look right. Taking advantage of this properly was something I spent a lot of time on, both on the Netscape side and the XScreenSaver side of things.

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