Scor­pio News


July–September 1987 – Volume 1. Issue 3.

Page 37 of 67

A Visit to Io Research

by P.A. Greenhalgh

Io Research was one of the first companies producing add-on products for Nasbus/80-8US. Founded in 1980, they initially produced an EPROM programmer. 8-bit A/D board, and a graphics board that sat between the Nasbus/80-BUS and a Nascom 32K RAM A board, using the RAM on this latter board as its display memory. Io have not produced any of these products for a number of years now, although the A/D board is in fact still available – it is now produced by Gemini as the GM824.

Another of Io’s early products was the Pluto 1 colour graphics board, and it is the success of this and its derivatives and descendants that have turned Io into one of the major computer graphics companies in the UK.

A few weeks ago I went along to Io, who are based in Barnet, to have a look at their current product range, and to be given demonstrations of some of these items. What follows is an overview of the events of that visit, with descriptions and prices of many of their products. No apologies are made if it all comes over rather like a sales leaflet, but the Pluto range has had very few mentions in Scorpio Mews and its predecessors. Io Research have probably been the most successful of the companies producing 80-BUS compatible products, and this article is intended to bring the readership up to date on the company and its product range, which is probably far greater than most people are aware.

Video demo

To get me in a graphics mood, I was first shown a video produced by one of their customers, Diverse Productions. This is a video company that does a lot of work for Channel 4, especially for the “Diverse Reports” program. It would be unreasonable to try and describe in words the contents of a graphics video, so O’ll just say that it was very impressive, and even more so when I was told that it was produced a couple of years ago. Io’s hardware and software have both moved on considerably since then.

The Boards

Pluto 1A

I was then shown the boards, and other hardware, currently in production. Pluto 1 is no longer available, but Pluto 1A is. This is not a dramatic re-design, but basically a re-engineering job, with a number of minor improvements. Additionally, those who have seen a Pluto 1 board could not fail to agree that the Pluto 1A board LOOKS much better, and much gore professional – in keeping with its price. It is now a multi-layer PCB, and various options are controlled by DIP switches rather than by soldered links.

Pluto 1A is an 6″ by 8″ 80-BUS board, is controlled by an 8088 processor, produces 16 colours, has 256K of memory, RS232 interface (e.g. for connection of a digitizing pad), and all graphics commands are controlled by an on-board ROM. It is available in two different resolution options, plus the option of an on-board colour palette, letting you choose the 16 displayable colours out of a range of 4096.

Pricing of Io’s products may be considered expensive compared to other 80-BUS boards from other manufacturers, but against ‘the competition’ in the computer graphics market, Io claim that they are very reasonable. By the time you get to the end of this article you may feel that Pluto 1A prices are positively give-away! Prices of the Pluto 1A range are:

640 x 576dotsin16fixedcolours£600
768 x 576"""""£675
640 x 576"""coloursfrom4096£900
768 x 576""""""£975

Page 37 of 67