In the Beginning…

Our first compiler product was a low cost ($39!!!) C compiler for the HC11. The ’11 was great for its time: the documentation is a standard that most CURRENT microcontroller documents could take lessons from; the chip was easy to use, even in the era of burning your own EEPROM and erasing them using UV light, and the HC11 E2 was a charmer since it has its own builtin 2K of EEPROM, back in the late 80s!

But I digress, ImageCraft had an earlier beginning. Back in the days when I was in the graduate school, I got very interested in MIT’s Rodney Brook’s subsumption architecture (*) and I did my Master thesis on a subsumption based C kernel (demonstrated with a RC-converted robot named Ripley). Then I decided to see if I can commercialize the kernel. As with all product launches, the naming took longer than the development time (ok, I exaggerated), and the kernel ended up being called REXIS, short for REal time eXecutive for Intelligent Systems. I forgot exactly how it happened, but someone at the Canada Forestry paid us a lump sum of $1500 to port REXIS to the 68000. They were embarking on a decade long project to build autonomous forest tending robots and REXIS fitted the bill, and thus ImageCraft was born… They actually sent us a VHS tape of the robot in action. It’s a huge 4 legged walking robot, able to negotiate rough terrain. I wonder if the clip is on youtube :-)

To close the story, it didn’t make much sense to sell a HC11 C kernel suitable for robotic uses when most roboticists/students could not afford a $1500 compiler, so I decided to write and sell a low cost HC11 compiler…

REXIS morphed into the simpler uExec, which we published in a Circuit Cellar article and is available on our website for several targets. One person added messaging API and another person ported it to the M16C. Unfortunately, I have not gotten these enhancements. In any case, I still have a soft spot for REXIS and I may resurrect it in a more modern form one of these days.

(*) funny enough, Brook’s eventual company started by one of his students, iRobot, is one of our customers…

2 Comments

  1. Doug says:

    My roots also extend back into “deep” history. In fact, I am the proud licensee of ICC11 serial #1262 and serial #2254 (that I purchased with REXIS) For the like of me, I can’t quite remember what I used it for ??

    think I might get out my Axiom HC11 board and give it a drive :-)

  2. Dan says:

    Another user from the deep dark past – mid 90s I “inherited” a project with an HC11 with ICC11 and we had contact from time to time. Companies I work for have moved over to Microchip in the meantime, but I very much enjoyed everything about ICC11, especially that it worked!

    Also enjoy the photo side and the Filk music a lot! I remember the children from 20 years ago – they must be full grown, as mine have become over that time.

    I don’t see any of the Diderajou (sp?) music? Still doing that?

    Is this the robot? No video, and it has been discontinued, but they still show some info.
    http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/index/gougeon-publications/7

    I see a comment about uExec above. I just got the article from CircuitCellar today and am now wondering what it takes to get uExec? Saw a sign in for it – what makes one a user?

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