A Falls Church company is preparing to deliver a powerful computer graphics processor featuring circuitry designed by a man whose formal training in computers consisted of a two-month course.
The new processor will enable producers of movies and television commercials, and users of computer simulations and computer-aided design and manufacturing, to generate three-dimensional images faster and at a lower cost than with other processors.
Privac Inc. was founded in October 1981 by John Yoon and his son Jason, 21. John Yoon heads Manpower Import and Visa Service, an 11-year-old company that handles immigration papers and now is a wholly owned division of Privac. He is active in the Republican Party and is chairman of the Korea-American Republican National Federation.
Privac makes the BT-1 graphics board, which adds business-graphics capabilities to certain kinds of nongraphics computer systems such as those made by Southwestern Technologies and Smoke Signal Broadcasting. The BT-1 has been on the market for a year and a half.
"We picked a market niche that was small and unobtrusive so that the core of the company would have a chance to work together," said George Wheelock, Privac's vice president for marketing. He added that the potential market for Privac's BT-1 graphics boards is about saturated.
Privac's big push, however, is toward production of the CT-1000 raster graphics processor for delivery by the end of October. Wheelock said that hundreds of other kinds of raster graphics processors are on the market. They produce displays on terminal screens dot by dot, like a television set. But there the comparison ends, because the processors' displays are of much higher quality. The CT-1000 displays up to 1,280 points of light, or pixels, horizontally and up to 1,024 vertically, which is five times more than are displayed on a standard television set and four times more than are displayed on a good computer monitor, Wheelock said.
This fineness of image has attracted producers of movies and commercials, and government agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey.
"The real meat of this whole thing is to take a three-dimensional object on the screen made up of a large number of components . . . and move that object on the screen," Wheelock said. He meant not only moving the three-dimensional depiction up, down, right and left, but also rotating it.
Privac's raster graphics processor generates more dots per second -- in this case, 500 million -- to display more information faster, according to Wheelock. The unique circuitry that permits the extremely high pixel-writing speed was developed by Jason Yoon.
Besides generating more pixels faster, the CT-1000 also is twice as fast as its best competitor in "three-dimensional coordinates transforms," according to Wheelock. That refers to recalculations of the coordinates of each plane in a three-dimensional image to allow the image to rotate smoothly and in real time, that is, with no lapse between when the controls are manipulated and when the image moves. The CT-1000 performs these calculations at the rate of 800,000 a second.
Wheelock said that, with a $35,000 optional device made by Privac that boosts the coordinate transforms speed to 2.5 million a second, the CT-1000 could generate the same high-quality, highly publicized graphics seen in the movie "The Last Starfighter." He added that, although the CT-1000 would take three times longer to produce these graphics than the giant Cray computer that was used for the movie, it costs only about one-hundredth as much as the Cray.
Prices of the CT-1000s are expected to range from $28,000 to $210,000, depending on the peripherals and other optional features, with the majority of buyers expected to purchase processor systems in the $28,000-to-$60,000 range. A typical system would consist of a graphics processor, keyboard, monitor, disk drives and operating system, according to Privac literature. Privac only supplies the processor.
Wheelock said that the CT-1000's performance-to-price ratio is better than that of existing systems used in computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing.
Privac has been promoting its innovation through graphics industry trade shows and advertisements in trade publications, Wheelock said. "We see a potential market of $12 million for the first 12 months of deliveries" of the CT-1000, he said, adding that purchase orders last month topped $750,000.
Jason Yoon said that he became interested in computers after taking a two-month program in seventh grade at Gunston Junior High School using a Hewlett-Packard desktop computer. He said that he has no other formal computer training.
"From the earliest days when I started learning about computers, computer graphics appealed to me," he said.
He described himself as a voracious reader of computer-related material and of material about space exploration, politics and business.