Brown University Graphics System (BUGS)

The initial configuration of BUGS, built by Professor Andries van Dam's graphics group, became operational in mid-1971. It consisted of a pair of Digital Scientific Meta 4 processors and a Vector General vector-graphics display and was augmented with the SIMALE (Super-Integral Microprogrammable Arithmetic Logic Expediter) in 1975. The SIMALE, designed and built by former undergraduate Harold Webber, had a 4-processor 18-bit SIMD architecture. Each processor had a 38-nanosecond cycle time for an effective peak performance of 105 MIPS. It supported real-time 2D, 3D, and 4D vector graphics with matrix transformations, clipping, and dynamic level-of-detail management, and it was distinguished by never having a hardware failure in its 7-year lifetime – it was taken down only to replace light bulbs. The SIMALE currently rests in the department's computer museum.

BUGS was originally installed in the Brown University Computing Lab at 180 George St. It was connected to the IBM 360/67 via RPC used for dynamic division of labor experiments between the mainframe host and the graphics satellite. It's believed that this was the first published use of RPC. When Brown CS moved to the new building (Kassar House at 151 Thayer Street) in May '79, BUGS moved to the basement, along with Nancy. Its tenth birthday was celebrated in the summer of '81 (those dealing with the VAX were explicitly not invited). It was decommissioned in early '82 when it became clear that there was no future in vector graphics and when work on the extension to 151 Thayer Street (Gould Lab) made part of the basement unusable. 

Thanks to the efforts of Brown CS alums Paul Anagnostopoulos, Read Fleming, and Craig Matthias, a number of BUGS documents are available in PDF form below. You can find other artifacts of our history at the Brown CS Digital Archive, where we invite you to submit items of your own!

The following people worked on the BUGS system during its lifetime: