What were you doing in 1988? Active Silicon started making machine vision history

  • Published September 2018
Active Silicon 30th anniversary tech from 1988

If you were a movie buff, you were probably watching Rain Man for the tenth time, or perhaps berating the qualities of sequels based on Crocodile Dundee II. Or perhaps you were a gamer, enjoying Gemstone IV or Chase HQ. The average cost of a house was only $91,600 in the US and £61,000 in the UK, which was just as well as interest rates were running at over 10% and 12% respectively!

1988 saw the appearance of the first major computer virus, the Morris Worm, A Brief History of Time was published and CDs outsold vinyl records for the first time.

Active Silicon is born
In West London, Colin Pearce and Chris Beynon were busy creating Active Silicon, initially as an FPGA design consultancy. The company, with Colin and Chris still at the helm, is now a leading manufacturer of specialist imaging products and embedded vision systems. Looking back on their 30 years, our CEO and CTO fondly remember some ground-breaking milestones.

The pair believe one of their most innovative creations was the S2200 image acquisition card, which completed development two years after the company launch. Pushing the boundaries of PCB design of the day, this board had such state-of-the-art technology that it remained unchanged and in the marketplace for nearly 20 years. The development team worked, literally, through the night on more than one occasion, using episodes of Only Fools and Horses as test videos, to complete the project.

The S2200 was a single width SBus card developed for the SunTM SPARCstationTM and compatible with SBus based computers. It accepted composite or component analogue video and digitised this to form a 24-bit word of digital RGB data, which was stored in real-time in on-board memory. The stored image could be output continuously to a dedicated monitor along with a superimposed host computer generated overlay. Although the presence of a single video standard in those days made development a little more straightforward, the frame grabber was truly revolutionary in the machine vision industry.

So, while NASA progressed its space shuttle program, Photoshop hit the commercial shelves and Sega launched its Genesis console, Active Silicon were doing their part in creating 20th century technological history.

Active Silicon continue to offer some of the most technologically advanced, highly reliable and well supported machine vision components in the world. See our range of products and contact us to see how we can help you build first-class vision systems.