Platforms

 

Tandy VIS

Made in USA by Tandy in 1992
71
games
13
unreleased
Tandy Memorex Visual Information System (VIS) was an interactive, multimedia CD-ROM player produced by the Tandy Corporation starting in 1992.
It was similar in function to the Philips CD-i and Commodore CDTV systems.

It was similar in design philosophy to the AMIGA CD³², Amstrad GX 400, Apple Pippin, Atari 5200, Atari XEGS, Commodore CDTV, and Commodore GS (make a console out of a scaled back home computer). In this case the basis was a modified version of Windows called Modular Windows. Modular Windows would later became the basis of WindowsCE (PocketPC/Windows Phone/Windows Mobile). It also had a version of DOS 3.x built-in (required for Modular Windows)

The VIS had many business and technical shortcomings. There was a distinct lack of 3rd party developers. The idea was that existing Windows/DOS/x86 development tools were easily adaptable for VIS development. The 12mhz 286 CPU motherboard used a custom bus (non-ISA) to increase performance to 386SX/16-20mhz equivalent. These gains were not bonuses but rather compensated for Modular Windows and MS-DOS residing only in ROM and RAM rather than on a disk which both were optimized for (the chipped versions of these OSes were actually slower). For instance, the system had to reload SYSTEM.INI into memory each time information needed to be retrieved from it. This was done 75 times simply to boot the system. Then the games would need to read the file on top of that. Also, there was no CD-ROM cache meaning the OS had to share space with data arriving from the CD. The audio-CD player of the unit is software based and loads when booting. Once again, it shares space with everything else. This MS-DOS 640K limit was firmly entrenched. King's Quest V takes 352 seconds to ask "Have you played before?" then another 352 seconds to begin the game, (no matter what your answer and no mater if your answer is true of false). Tandy required licensed games to boot in under 15 seconds but when none could, they increased that limit to 90 seconds, but when most could not achieve that they decided not to enforce this rule.

Despite being based on x86 hardware and a form of Windows/DOS, developers called it "alien" (CD-i earned the same moniker). Microsoft was even prompted to officially deny the existence of Modular Windows. This put another huge hurtle in development. There was no Modular Windows SDK as long as MS denied MW's existence. They only relented and made an MW SDK after the VIS and successors were off the market. Similar to XEGS, CDTV, CD³², publishers took advantage of the platform to adapt existing game engines to straight-port their older games (shovelware).

DRM
A file copyrighted by Tandy must be present on CD in order to load it. Even the few existing DOS or Windows game that could run on the 'alien' hardware will not run due to laking this file. And, all developers needed (and still need) Tandy's permission to duplicate the file. Hackers have bypassed this requirement by (illegally) making CD-Rs with the file on it. An interesting a possibly legal method also exists whereby a copy of the file is temporarily cashed from the VIS ROM to reside on a memory card (hardware hack/upgrade using a modified ISA CyberCard required) where it can be used to 'verify' anything connected to the system. There are fewer than 100 ISA CyberCards in existance, so good luck with that. Tandy initially planed to enforce royalties-per-copy in exchange for using the file but ultimately did not.

When Tandy abandon the VIS (01-10-1993), they sold of everything to Tiger Software. Other companies abandoned the platform soon after.
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