Trancept Systems

Trancept Systems Inc. was founded in January 1986 by Tim Van Hook, Mary Whitton, and me. Our goal was to develop a flexible, programmable, high performance graphics and imaging accelerator for computer workstations.

In the Spring of 1987 we introduced the TAAC-1 product for Sun Microsystems workstations. The TAAC-1 consisted of two large PC boards, one full of video RAM, the other full of a micro-programmed wide-instruction-word (200 bits) processor optimized for graphics and imaging operations. The TAAC-1 was plugged into and memory mapped onto the Sun's VME bus.

We had a brief but exciting life as a start-up company, developing the hardware and demo software during 1986, introducing the product at the NCGA conference in Spring 1987, and selling ourselves to Sun Microsystems (for a bunch of money) in May 1987. At the time, Trancept consisted of the original trio plus 7 other talented (and brave) souls who'd joined our start-up effort.

Lots of interesting and innovative microcode for the TAAC-1 got developed by some very sharp Trancept and Sun folks, including:

Customers got a C language microcode compiler and were strongly encouraged (!) to develop their own code. They came up with all sorts of interesting and imaginative ways to use the TAAC-1.

For some more info on the system, see an article I wrote in the Winter 1988 issue of Sun Technology Magazine.

After Trancept was acquired by Sun in 1987, the TAAC-1 continued to be marketed for several years and I'd guess almost 400 TAACs were sold. Sun's North Carolina group went on to develop the SunVision visualization toolkit, the VX/MVX accelerator, and various video capture and compression boards before Sun pulled the plug in 1994.

There were lots of great people who were part of Trancept (and Sun's North Carolina group) and we had lots of great (and patient) customers. Thanks for the wonderful experience.

Nick England