SOFTWARE FOR THE GEMINI VIDEO CARD
The Gemini video card is “port mapped” instead of “memory mapped”. This
means that instead of occupying an area of memory in the computer which can be
accessed directly by the processor, it is instead accessed through the Z80
ports by IN and OUT instructions.
This has the advantage that it doesn’t tie up 2K of RAM, which the 80*25
display requires, and it also means that the screen driving software, which is
quite complicated, becomes no more than a few instructions to the program
driving the Z80 processor on the video card. Therefore I think that this was
the best approach.
However, there is also an obvious disadvantage of this method. Many
programs have been written which access video RAM directly, in particular
various games programs with fast moving objects. Normal programs tend to
produce output in the conventional way, and these work with the video card
without any difficulty.
One solution is to modify programs to send the special escape sequences to
the video card in the normal way to position the cursor and then write the
characters required. This is quite possible, and will be suitable in some
cases, but it tends to be a rather complicated and tedious job to program.
Therefore after some thought I have developed a little piece of software
which allows programs to access an area of memory which acts as “pseudo video
RAM”. All you have to do is to assemble the code below with VAREA set to the
start of a 4K area of RAM which is not in use. Then call the routine VINIT at
the start of your program. You can then read and write to this area exactly
as if it is video RAM. Then whenever you want to update the screen, just call
the routine VIDEO. This routine works out the most efficient sequence of
commands to send to the video card, by maintaining a record of the previous
screen contents. You can mix calls to VIDEO with conventional I/O to the
screen, which will not be affected. For example, calls to VIDEO will not
disturb the cursor position. Using this system, I was able to convert the
PIRANHA program which was published in an earlier INMC to use the video card,
with only minor alterations to allow for the increased screen size.
Naturally, this system can never give the very high speeds achieved by
true video RAM displays. Also, the screen area is much larger and this means
that programs take longer to process the additional data. However, most
programs of this type spend most of the time sitting in delay loops, and it
should only be necessary to reduce the delays to get the system running at a
The VIDEO routine uses the transparent mode of access to the screen, so
there is no speckling on the display whatsoever, which is an improvement over
the black specks on the Nascom 2, to say nothing of the snowstorms of the
SPECIAL INMC COMPILATION ISSUE
We are pleased to announce that the ‘best’ and ‘most relevant’ bits of
INMC issues 1 – 7 (Oct. ’78 to May ’80) have been compiled to produce a
special issue. This is available from your distributor for 2.50, or from
ourselves at 3.00 including postage.