JPEG: The New Graphics Format On The Block

Any regular readers here know that I’ve owned a lot of machines in my time. It was 1993 when I called an Amiga 1200 my main machine and when JPEG images started appearing on BBSs across the land. You know, JPEGs. They’re the most commonly used image format on the net, but at one time they were a new curiosity.

JPEGs were fun on the Amiga because they support “true color” — 24 bits per pixel of it (16.7 million colors in all) and the Amiga 1200 supports a near-true color mode with it’s HAM8 graphics mode. I recall downloading, with much excitement, various JPEG images I would find on BBS’s here and there for viewing as a means to “show off” what the Amiga 1200 could do. These images were scarce, and every one I downloaded I uploaded to the local Amiga BBS, known as “The Board” (Hampton, VA area). I was trying to make The Board a repository for these great, new sort of images. JPEGs were so rare, it seemed a noble effort. (Some names I recall from The Board: Myron Sothcott (sysop), Pat Birkmeyer, Norm Goswick — all part of our local Amiga user group at the time, A.L.F.A. or Amigoid Life Form Association. And yes, I hope Google brings them here and inspires a comment or two; I’ve not heard form these folks in 15 years.)

The JPEG viewers I had for my Amiga 1200 would render the images in HAM8 mode at 640×480 pixels. Back then was a pretty high resolution. I recall it took about two minutes to fully render the JPEG to the screen using its 14.3MHz Motorola 68EC020 processor. That’s pretty amazing when you consider that modern machines can decode a JPEG in about the same time it takes to decode an uncompressed .BMP or .TIFF image — that is: instantly.

Did my efforts help make JPEG a standard in today’s web world? Unlikely. But standard it is, and it’s interesting to recall a time when it was so strange and new a thing.

The Board is long gone now, but my computer room again contains an Amiga 1200 and an Amiga 2000, and the latter has a 56Kbps modem attached to its ASDG Zorro II dual serial board. Just to help me search for a modern-day BBS even remotely resembling The Board. An unlikely find, I must say. One can always hope, however….

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