Visi On 1.x

edited May 2018 in Product Comments

imageVisi On 1.x

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  • I stumbled across this interesting pre-release marketing video of VisiCorp Visi On that someone uploaded to Youtube.

    It features several vintage-y computers including a PET and an Apple II.

    The odd thing is they seem to have Visi On running on Wang Professional Computers. (Only the CRT monitors are visible, the huge CPU units obviously hidden away) And the Wang uses a much higher video resolution than normal IBM PC Visi On.

    I believe the Fall 1983 comdex demo video showed the Windows 1 pre-release running on some higher resolution Wang machines.

    BTW, is there still a way to download videos from youtube? I have not tried to do that in ages.

  • Search for "Download Youtube videos". You'll get a ton of results. Example this:

  • ClipConverter works well if you have an adblocker installed. Or you can use the command line tool youtube-dl (search for it on GitHub).

  • There's another YouTube downloader called "OnlineVideoConverter", which you can download YouTube videos in any format (MP3, WAV, MP4, AVI, WMV, etc.) One thing is that I'd get lots of annoying popups, especially when I click the download button; which is weird because popups are blocked by default in Google Chrome, the web browser I use.

  • JDownloader 2 seems to be pretty good for downloading from YouTube. It's a Java-based application.

  • I'm assuming the original disks of this copy were once used by a person with an M1 mouse? At least according to the AM Setup guide, you only get to chose the mouse type (either M1 or S1) on the very first installation. After that, your master disks will be modified and forever locked to the mouse type you've chosen. This appears to be the case here, since you can't chose the S1 mouse anymore, only M1. This of course also means that the only form of copy protection we can observe in this copy is with disk 1 acting as a key disk - if an S1 mouse could be selected and sufficiently emulated, it could've been used as a hardware dongle.

    So to get completely clean, vanilla disks of this with both mouse options during setup, one would need to find an unused copy. But finding any copy at all of this is damn near impossible these days, unfortunately.

  • edited August 2019

    As far as that video goes, you can see some of the same UI differences as in early press photos. Most notably, there used to be a SAVE option at the bottom, which was used for saving the session (according to the video, anyway). Pretty interesting that both Visi On and Windows 1.0 initially had this feature (or at least intended to have it) but then dropped it later on. There's also Demo apps, which are either early builds of the actual Visi On apps or they're just demos made for the press (not entirely functional). Various application menus are pretty different than in the final release, and there doesn't seem to be a double window border for the active window.

    The press from 1984 also suggests Visi On didn't just drop dead after 1.0 - there were three updates under development before the product was sold to CDC. "Performance Visi On", officially designated as version 1.2, was the closest to completion in summer 1984 and may have actually been released around that time (late summer/early fall 84). Apparently it improved the system performance, added support for AT-class machines and included the rebranded Visi On Calc, now known as Visi On Plan (I found a photo of its updated box online a while ago but lost it...) due to the Software Arts settlement.

    The second was "floppy based Visi On", which would presumably drop the requirement for a hard disk drive and thus the virtual memory feature. Doesn't seem like this one was ever completed or released. The last was Visi On 2.0, the only thing known is that they were to add a command prompt feature to it so you could run DOS applications under Visi On. Also seems highly theoretical.

    There was a fourth Visi On app announced back in 1983, called Visi On Query, which was to be some kind of database. However, since no signs of it can be found anywhere except in press photos, it may have never been released due to VisiCorp's troubles at the time (note that Word was already released later than the rest). CDC initially wanted to use Visi On as an environment for its business software, while VisiCorp retained the retail marketting rights. I seem to recall an article about a CDC re-release of Visi On later, but I'd have to check again to make sure. In fact, the Visi On Plan box I mentioned above may well have featured a CDC logo on it.

  • @DeFacto said:

    So to get completely clean, vanilla disks of this with both mouse options during setup, one would need to find an unused copy. But finding any copy at all of this is damn near impossible these days, unfortunately.

    Yes, when installing it, it writes a serial to one of the copy protection sectors. That takes away any mouse selection, but the only other option was a serialized Visi-On mouse.

    I think just clearing that sector should bring back that selection option but I never got around to testing that.

    Also, a WAY while back someone sent me a transcopy file dump of Visi On Plan, but I never got it to run, it might require a later Visi On. Also their dump had a boot sector virus, and it is tricky to clean that out of a transcopy file.

  • It's worth a try in my opinion. If the S1 mouse could be selected, it could make emulation attempts easier, and it would be interesting to see it work with an emulated hardware dongle. :)

    That's unfortunate. You can still find a complete Visi On set with both Calc and Plan on worthpoint, probably sourced from ebay years ago (that's the Plan box photo I saw). Unclear which version, though. It wouldn't surprise me if it indeed requires something like version 1.2 I mentioned above.

  • Ok, got of my ass and messed with it a bit. It's not quite as simple as I thought. A used disk has a readable sector 255 on track 40 (41st counting from zero). An untouched disk would instead have several fake sector headers there instead. Install writes to the invalid sector 255, which overwrites the fake sector headers and makes the sector valid.

    By chance, an unmodified example is on install disk 2. Exported the second disk to MFM text, and replaced the sector 255 with the invalid MFM headers. Then I got this:

    Unfortunately, PCE does not support writing to this kind of mess, so install won't continue. Don't have time right now to test on real hardware, but if the IDs are right, it should work.

    I don't believe this will make emulation attempts much easier. You have to support the serialized version of the Visi On mouse, and you still have to support floppy copy protection to install it.

  • Wow, thanks! Unfortunately there's almost no info online about the S1 mouse, but we'll see what could perhaps be done about emulation.

  • edited August 2019

    Visi On was head of it time. Visi On was first GUI for IBM PC and Predate Microsoft Windows for 2 years. System requirements for Visi On was too high for 1983 standards. There was few PCs shipped with 64k-128k and IBM did not yet offer a hard disk with the PC in until march 1983 with PC XT. Visi On Applications were written in a VisiC and making Visi On Applications required Knowledge a Unix development environment. Visi On was seen as a flop. Visi On helped Microsoft started and finish Windows.

  • Also works on 86box with TONS of tinkering.

  • You need to use a modified version of HxC to create MFM images from Kryoflux dumps, then export those MFM images to 86F images in 86Box to use them for installation. After that it should install and work smoothly if your config is right.

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