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I still have a Hollywood Hardware graphics card that I used in my Apple II+ back-in-the-day. It was my understanding that this was the graphics card used for the special effects in the first three Star Wars movies (1977 to 1983).

I have not been able to locate any mention of this graphics card on the internet.

Where can I find more information about it, including a reasonable price and an appropriate site if I want to sell it to a collector?

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    Interesting question. I'll +1 it. No clue from my end, though. Never heard of it. But bear in mind that the Apple II only arrived in mid 1977. It's difficult to believe that a graphics card was developed, debugged, and delivered in what remains of that year. What sold the Apple II (at least from my personal observations) was the Visicalc software. Business "suits" didn't care at all for the pretty colors and games on the Apple II. But they very much cared about Visicalc. That software made Apple what it became, I believe. Anyway, no idea. Just some thoughts from an old-timer that lived then.
    – jonk
    Jul 6 at 5:40
  • @jonk Visicalc is what sold it to business. But home sales were great (because: color, unlike Pet and TRS-80) as were schools. And I'm sure quite a few using it in some way for commercial graphics, particularly with extra cards, as there weren't all that many options at the time, especially if you didn't want to spend $10k just to get started. Jul 6 at 13:48
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact I was there and watched the almost immediate change in clientele at a local store when VisiCalc arrived. It was sudden and starkly obvious. The price was high by comparison with what you got in exchange. I know. I was considering a purchase. But decided there was better value elsewhere. But I also saw these "suits" just buying them in quantity, suddenly, and wondered why. Until I spoke with some at the store. Every single answer I got was VisiCalc. Not one exception. The store owner confirmed the sudden change with me, too, who refocused their entire sales space.
    – jonk
    Jul 6 at 13:53
  • On a related note, someone's provided, under the name Making of the Computer Graphics for Star Wars (Episode IV) a YouTube upload of the 1977 documentary short "The Star Wars Computer Animation" by Larry Cuba, where the guy who did the one bit of CGI in the original release of Episode 4, retells what he did as you get to see clips of the actual hardware he worked on.
    – ssokolow
    Jul 6 at 17:37
  • Not to be confused with the Hollywood GPU (early 2000s). Jul 7 at 1:12

2 Answers 2

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It appears that Hollywood Hardware was a subsidiary of special effects house Apogee, itself formed by ex-employees of Industrial Light And Magic.

This Apple's Apprentice magazine article from 1984 seems to indicate that the boards provided functions such as an analog to digital converter that they had used in their SFX work, and was presumably aimed at other effects artists as opposed to home users.

I would say their hardware derives from what was built for the custom Dykstraflex camera motion control systems rather than actually producing any of the few seconds of actual CGI in the original films.

As to price and so on, you'll have to figure that out yourself.

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special effects in the first three Star Wars movies (1977 to 1983).

Not sure which special effects you refer to, but the animations in the original movie, especially the ones during the briefing scene before the attack on the Death Star, were prepared on a PDP-11 using a Vector General 3D terminal and programmed using the GRASS language.

The VG terminals had a series of lamps that could be turned on or off using command strings. They removed one of these lamps and connected its wires to the shutter release of a stop-motion camera. The system would render one image on the terminal, which had its own "frame buffer" for the vectors, and then trigger the camera.

You will note there are two sorts of animations during this scene. One shows a distant view of the DS which then rotates and zooms. This is done entirely in the VG hardware, which did the math internally using its own math processor. So these could be quickly filmed by sending "rotate 1 degree Z, turn on lamp".

The ones where you are flying down the trench require new scenery to be drawn, which you can see "popping" into view. Between the appearances the existing items were individually zoomed to provide the illusion of motion, which you could get away with for a few frames before the perspective started to get wonky. So this section took an overnight run to film.

I tracked down the actual machine a few years ago. At the time it was in a warehouse outside Chicago. I contacted the Computer History Museum to see if they could get it - it still runs the graphics BTW! - but have not followed up.

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