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Moment from old digital "Om Mani Peme Hum"
Moment from old digital "Om Mani Peme Hum"

An old, spinning, digital mani-wheel

I stumbled across this clip on youtube.

The musical style is typically westernised Chinese, but I do have a special soft spot for the clip, since the highly pixellated version of the rotating mantra at the beginning (from 9 seconds through to about 25 seconds) has been lifted from a DOS (yes!) graphic I wrote in around 1992!

Why was I so pleased to see this? Because it has been extracted from a program I wrote in about 1992 in Borland C+ running on DOS. (DOS 3.0, if I remember correctly.)

Moment from old digital "Om Mani Peme Hum"
Moment from old digital “Om Mani Peme Hum”

Of course in a sense it’s graphical, but it’s not graphics as we know it these days. The characters were drawn using mathematical functions such as splines and Bezier curves. Vertical scans were then taken through a notionally flat version of the image. When the program ran, it did some trigonometry to prepare a table of how far across the screen each vertical scanline should appear. Next, taking one vertical line at a time, it worked out what would be visible of the front and back sides of the wheel. Having worked through the vertical lines for a whole screen, it’s next move was to shift the lines onwards one position, then to display the vertical lines again.

The first version crept round, but as computing speeds increased it was really spinning by the time two or three years had gone by. I gave quite a few copies away on 5ΒΌ inch floppy disks. (Remember them?)

So although it’s pretty rough by the standards of today’s graphics it was, though I say it myself, pretty damned clever in its day. It’s nice to see it surface again!

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