VecOS is a very ambitious project to produce a form GUI Operating System front end and a variety of features that one might expect from a modern OS. The key point of VecOS is that all media and components are prepared on a PC, then they are assembled together into a single giant ROM which is booted on the Vectrex. The current limitation is that everything must fit within 32K, the advantage is that data format conversions, interpretations and pre-processing can all be done easily by the PC and presented in a efficient native Vectrex binary. Naturally since its a ROM the OS is effectively Read Only in terms of it's media, but it can hold many components (including traditional GCE binaries - remember most releases were only 4K)
The demonstration contained 4 distinct sections
- The GUI OS. Impressive skinned GUI, a PSP inspired look and feel was demonstrated, although Maritjn indicated Windows, etc would follow later. This was able to navigate the media elements, and launch traditional binaries.
- Bitmap display. Displayed a variety of images sourced from gifs etc, apparently full screen. Clearly limited by monochrome dithering, but superb in terms of the size of images. I think we knew Martijn was the master of Vectrex Rastering!
- Sound player. A surreal demo. Martijn played samples of Prodigy and Jnr-Snr tracks. Martijn was very apologetic of the quality of these tracks since they were sampled at only 3kbps however they were playing on a Vectrex! Click here for an exclusive Ed209 wav sample as produced by VecOS. It might sound a bit rough, but remember this is running on a Vectrex and produced using VecOS automated tools. (sorry but Martijn won't let me relelase the ROM itself.. yet)
- VecOS BASIC. This is the shocker, not to be confused with Ken Gibbons recent and superb Vectrex BASIC which provides a full embedded Vectrex BASIC editor and interpreter benefiting from the vectrex keyboard adaptor by Richard Hutchinson. VecOS BASIC is a different animal though. You write the BASIC program on your PC in a standard text editor. The language is pretty rich and even allows standard Vectrex vector drawing commands. I read the draft manual, it was very simple to understand and even simpler to learn than old school Spectrum or BBC Micro BASIC. You then compile the BASIC on your PC for the Vectrex although it turns it into a form of bytecode, and then VecOS writes it to a ROM to run on the Vectrex. All the ease and convenience of BASIC meaning literally anyone can write for it, and the power of pre-parsed code. Martijn demonstrated Pong that he had written, the code was simple to read and understand. Very much easier than ASM but running at a good speed. VecOS BASIC also contains automatic VecVox speech translation as a bonus. It will be very exciting to see the first 3rd party VecOS BASIC development. Final thought: It was very impressive, but I wonder if Martijn has missed the Vectrex killer app here? If he could just compile it to full machine code with reasonable optimisation the speed would increase the potential even further! Maybe that will follow soon?
VecOS could be the best thing to hit Vectrex in a long time or it could be a curiosity; clearly it works hard to make the Vectrex do stuff it was never intended to do, and as a technical achievement it is already incredible. What happens will be down to us and how we receive this. Let's give it the reception, appreciation and support it needs to ensure it becomes a landmark in Vectrex development history! Great work Martijn!