The Very Unofficial IRISVISIONTM Home Page

Table of Contents:

Product Description:


The IrisVision hardware is nearly identical to the graphics sub-system in the SGI Personal Iris workstation introduced in 1988. The hardware supports a 5th generation geometry processing pipeline, the GE5, an 8 or 24 bit per pixel frame buffer, and a 24-bit per pixel z-buffer for hidden surface removal. The card set implements in hardware, the entire IrisGL graphics Application Programming Interface (API).

Notable differences from the Personal Iris graphics are:

The card has a rich set of video and rendering modes consistent with the Personal Iris.

The product came to life originally as an OEM graphics board set based upon the VME bus in the Personal Iris. Later, IBM approached SGI to develop a Micro Channel Architecture (MCA) version of the card for use in their newly introduced RS-6000 Unix workstation. IBM licensed the MCA card design as well as the IrisGL graphics library from SGI. In the process of testing the product, it was discovered that an IBM PS/2 model 70 personal computer running OS/2 could be used to run diagnostics and test programs on the card much easier than using the RS-6000. So a minimal device driver was written for the card and soon IBM was shipping product.

At some point, the light went off in someone's head; "Why don't we sell this board set for use in PCs?". IrisVision was born. Initially, the MCA card was re-designed to offer some features critical for the PC market, including standard 15-pin VGA-style video output and a 15-pin VGA passthrough input connector. The IBM genlock connector was moved to the top of the card, and stereo display signals were also brought out to the VGA passthrough connector. The card occupied 1 32-bit MCA slot and an adjacent 16/32 bit slot. One or two daughter boards provided framebuffer and z-buffer memory.

Work then began on the design of an Industry Standard Architecture (ISA or AT-bus) version of the card. It would occupy 2 16-bit ISA slots and use the identical daughter cards as the MCA (and IBM) versions of the board set.


The IrisGL API is implemented in a C-language library developed with the Metaware High-C 32-bit C compiler and the PharLap 32-bit DOS-Extender. It was designed to run in a full screen DOS environment. At the time, M/S Windows did not offer a 32-bit programming environment, so the PharLap DOS-Extender technology was the most sophisticated solution available. It features full 32-bit virtual addressing (2 GB application space), virtual memory support, and seamless integration of real and protected mode programs. The MetaWare High-C compiler is ANSI compatible and is just the ticket for compiling Unix source code to run under DOS-Extender on the IrisVision card.

IrisVision History:


IrisVision drivers and related software:

Note to PS/2 MicroChannel Users:


The Autodesk ADI display driver:

For the v2.00 SGI version of the ADI driver for AutoCAD, download this disk image for both ISA and MCA versions.

For the latest Download and save this ISA zip file or this MCA zip file (MCA version may not work - 550Kb) and unzip it to your IRISVISION ADI driver directory with the command:

    pkunzip c:\iv_adi
    - or -
    pkunzip c:\iv_adi


Here's the Release Notes for the ADI driver, that includes some information regarding use under Windows as well as operation with other DOS GL programs (like IrisView).


AutoCAD and other IrisGL programs:

It is possible to execute other GL-based applications while inside of AutoCAD using this display driver, for example, IrisView. To do so, you must use the following steps:

  1. Arrange to leave some extended memory free while in AutoCAD. A good way to do this is with the ACADMAXMEM variable. Set this variable to a number (in bytes) that is about 4MB less than your physical RAM amount. For example, assume you have a 16MB system, you would then use:
    1. SET ACADMAXMEM=12000000
  2. Inside of AutoCAD, use the SHELL command preceded by a GLSHELL command as follows:
    1. GLSHELL
    2. SHELL
    3. IrisView
  3. The GLSHELL commands informs the driver to prepare for a second GL application to take over during the SHELL session.

Since IrisView uses a DXF file, you should perform a DXFOUT prior to the SHELL, that way, the current file will be available for viewing. A good use for IrisView is to view your drawing in 3D and as a quick way to make check prints, etc.


The Cyberspace Developer's Kit:

The latest GL display driver for IrisVision is fully compatible with Autodesk's CDK. To use it requires setting the proper environment variables to inform the CDK application which driver to use and where it is located.

Here's the settings I use:

You may need to modify these settings to match your environment.


The Windows 3.x display driver:

Download and save this zip file (175Kb) and unzip it to a floppy disk with the command:

pkunzip a:

Then run the Windows SETUP program and select the IrisVision display driver.

The driver supports the following display modes (depending on hardware configuration):

Resolution Colors Fonts
1024x768 256 Small
1024x768 256 Large
1024x768 16M Small
1024x768 16M Large
1280x1024 256 Small
1280x1024 256 Large
1280x1024 16M Small
1280x1024 16M Large


Third Party Software/Hardware/Information:

Here are some links I collected at one time from vendors of IrisVision compatible software. Thay may or may not still work, only retained here for a historical perspective.


IrisVision, AutoCAD/DOS and Windows 3.x:

This card and the AutoCAD ADI driver are fully compatible with operation under Microsoft Windows. Nothing special has to be done in regards to the card or ADI driver. However, a number of steps must be taken in order to allow PharLap DOS-Extender-based applications such as IrisGL and AutoCAD/386 R12 to be run inside of the Windows environment.

These include:

After these steps are done, you are now ready to run the IrisGL application from inside of Windows. IrisGL will also work in conjunction with the Windows GDI driver for this board as well. If you are using another graphics board for Windows and you use a separate digitizer for AutoCAD (i.e. not the Windows mouse), you may want to try running AutoCAD's text screen windowed. To do this, check the "Display Usage: Windowed" option. You will need to keep the mouse pointer within the DOS window to use an IrisGL application such as AutoCAD. If you are using the Windows mouse, this option will not give you full screen access with the mouse in IrisGL. We find that selecting the "Background Execution" can produce unacceptably slow cross hair and cursor response on slower machines. Remember, do not select "Windowed" if you are using this board's Windows display driver for Windows.

A note to users of any Logitech mice or trackballs:
In CONFIG.SYS, be sure to use the MOUSE.SYS driver for the Logitech pointing device. In Windows, use the mouse detected in SETUP. In AutoCAD, select the "Microsoft Mouse" not the "Logitech Mouse". AutoCAD's Logitech mouse driver will put the mouse into a special mode that is incompatible with Windows.


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[Last updated: 20.MAR.2000]