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The Video Game Software Wizardry of Id

Behind the action and terro of Id’s video game software lies a revolution in desktop technology

14 min read
Screenshots showing Id Software’s graphics
Over the last 12 years, the evolving realism of Id Software’s graphics has set the bar for the industry. Among the games (bottom to top, left): Commander Keen (1990); Hovertank (1991); Wolfenstein 3D (1992); Doom (1993); Quake (1996); and Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001).
Image: Id Software

It’s after midnight when the carnage begins. Inside a castle, soldiers chase Nazis through the halls. A flame-thrower unfurls a hideous tongue of fire. This is Return to Castle Wolfenstein, a computer game that’s as much a scientific marvel as it is a visceral adventure. It’s also the latest product of Id Software (Mesquite, Texas). Through its technologically innovative games, Id has had a huge influence on everyday computing, from the high-speed, high-color, and high-resolution graphics cards common in today’s PCs to the marshalling of an army of on-line game programmers and players who have helped shape popular culture.

Id shot to prominence 10 years ago with the release of its original kill-the-Nazis-and-escape game, Wolfenstein 3D. It and its successors, Doom and Quake, cast players as endangered foot soldiers, racing through mazes while fighting monsters or, if they so chose, each other. To bring these games to the consumer PC and establish Id as the market leader required skill at simplifying difficult graphics problems and cunning in exploiting on-going improvements in computer graphics cards, processing power, and memory size. To date, their games have earned over US $150 million in sales, according to The NPD Group, a New York City market research firm.

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Colorful chip with wires coming out of it surrounded by large metal plates.

Engineers probe the performance of noisy bits that, when working together, may solve some problems better than quantum computers.

Lang Zeng/Beihang University

A large universal quantum computer is still an engineering dream, but machines designed to leverage quantum effects to solve specific classes of problems—such as D-wave’s computers—are alive and well. But an unlikely rival could challenge these specialized machines: computers built from purposely noisy parts.

This week at the IEEE International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM 2022), engineers unveiled several advances that bring a large-scale probabilistic computer closer to reality than ever before.

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How PostScript Kickstarted Desktop Publishing

Adobe’s PostScript became the heart of the digital printing press

8 min read
An illustration consisting of a spiral of calligraphy-style lettering that repeatedly spells the word “infinity”.

“Infinity Circle,” by Xerox PARC researcher Scott Kim, was made using JaM, predecessor to PostScript.

Adobe

The story of PostScript has many different facets. It is a story about profound changes in human literacy as well as a story of trade secrets within source code. It is a story about the importance of teams and of geometry. And it is a story of the motivations and educations of engineer-entrepreneurs.

The Computer History Museum is excited to publicly release, for the first time, the source code for the breakthrough printing technology, PostScript. (Register to download the code here.) We thank Adobe for the company’s permission and support, and Adobe cofounder John Warnock for championing this release.

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Get the Rohde & Schwarz EMI White Paper

Learn how to measure and reduce common mode electromagnetic interference (EMI) in electric drive installations

1 min read
Rohde & Schwarz

Nowadays, electric machines are often driven by power electronic converters. Even though the use of converters brings with it a variety of advantages, common mode (CM) signals are a frequent problem in many installations. Common mode voltages induced by the converter drive common mode currents damage the motor bearings over time and significantly reduce the lifetime of the drive.

Download this free whitepaper now!

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