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In the late 1980's, Intel offered the 82786 graphics chip, with specific support for windowed environments. I remember it being covered in Byte magazine, but don't remember seeing any applications of the chip. The chip datasheet covered a range of applications, ranging from low end 80186/82786 shared-memory machines through high end workstations that used multiple 82786 chips each with dedicated VRAM to get to higher resolutions and color depths. (The datasheet also discussed how the chip could be used as a rasterizer for a printer.)

What sorts of machines used this chip in reality, and what type of commercial performance did Intel achieve with this chip?

Datasheet here: https://archive.org/details/bitsavers_inteldataBcsCoprocessorUsersManual_13669379/mode/2up

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The August 10, 1987 issue of InfoWorld lists a number of boards which were announced at that year’s SIGGRAPH:

  • Univision Technologies’ UDC-803
  • Bell Technologies’ Blit Express
  • Vermont Microsystems’ Page Manager 100

The first two were workstation-style cards, supporting respectively 1600×1280 and 1664×1200, designed to work on the ISA bus; the latter was more publishing-oriented, supporting monochrome 1024×1024. At least the Blit Express and Page Manager 100 required specific monitors.

The Blit Express made an appearance in Bell Technologies’ MPE workstations, supporting 1664×1200 monochrome graphics or 640×480 with 8-bit colour, on specific Bell monitors. It was supported by Interactive Unix 2.2 and later and various other Unix implementations, using the Xwge X server, at least in monochrome. Drivers were available for Microsoft Windows and NeWS as well.

This system makes an appearance in Micro Cornucopia issue 50, running Intel Unix (after Intel bought Bell Technologies), but I haven’t found any benchmarks of its graphical capabilities.

I get the impression these graphics adapters didn’t fare too well against the TI 34010-based competition. (Intriguingly, Number Nine produced one adapter in their Pepper range which used both 34010 and 82786 chips, but all their other TIGA adapters used TI chips only.)

(Bell Technologies shouldn’t be confused with Bell Labs of course.)

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    atarimax.com/freenet/freenet_material/… talks of a MetScreen "C32 graphic board" apparently for Atari. The highest performance system (C110/128) used a "82786", likely a typo? So still in service perhaps in 1991. The fact it did not spawn a continuing family of chips suggests it was not a blazing commercial success.
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 14, 2020 at 19:18
  • Thanks! I was able to find something that claims to be a picture of an SGT Pepper, which does appear to include both the TI and Intel chips: yjfy.com/images/oldhard/video/Pepper.jpg Original source here: cpu-world.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=33625. (There's also a picture of an Apple NuBus video board with the chip that has the label easier to read.)
    – mschaef
    Apr 16, 2020 at 11:04
  • Excellent find! The photos of Pepper adapters I’d seen so far only showed the TI chips. Apr 16, 2020 at 11:30
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Late to the party.

I programmed an 82786 for a commercial graphics terminal product. I think it was 1986.

Naturally, everything ends up in the landfill, sooner rather than later. It's funny to think about a career which involved the i860, several i960s, Xscale (Intel ARM), TI C80, etc. All long dead exotica.

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    Can you tell us the make and model of the product? Please edit and update your answer, if possible. Feb 23 at 21:35
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    I suspect many of us in this forum have much of our careers in landfills.
    – dave
    Feb 23 at 21:48
  • @Dave - and those would be the successful projects. In my early career I worked on multiple projects at different companies that were cancelled before they were finished. A compiler, a workflow system, a database that was released to manufacturing and we got ship gifts consisting of the product in its shiny box case but was cancelled almost immediately after that as the company bought a different company that already had a world-class product in the market, and so on. Wretched experiences in the end, but at least they didn't contribute (much) to the pollution problem ...
    – davidbak
    Feb 24 at 0:48
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    An interesting comment, but just that: a comment, not an answer.
    – RonJohn
    Feb 24 at 12:15
  • If you could tell us the product, that would give an idea of the commercial success of the chip, which is what the question asks for. But yes, interesting anecdote.
    – Chenmunka
    Feb 24 at 15:30

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