The extreme low end of graphic resolutions in VGA mode. 320x240, while quite blazingly fast, makes the pixels far too large to work or play in. Granted, some old games are 320x240 or nothing, but for my money, I much prefer 640x480 or 800x600 resolution.

A 320x240x256 resolution, unlike 320x200, provides square pixels. With pixels this big, it's important.

Unfortunately it requires more than 64k of ram, so mode X (as this was sometimes called) required the pixels to be separated into bit planes. (In DOS/real mode there was only a 64k block of memory addresses alotted to the VGA card.) A single pixel is arranged like this: (shown compared to 320x200)

       Mode X                      Mode 13
 /0/4/____   plane 0
^^^^^^^^^^                      (only one plane)
 /1/5/____   plane 1           /_______________
^^^^^^^^^^                    /0/1/2/3/4/5/6/7/___
  /___                       ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
 /2/6/____   plane 2
 /3/7/____   plane 3
where only one plane is paged in at a time. Each byte holds 2 bits of 4 pixels. This way, only 19k of contiguous memory is required.

But yeesh... that's pretty messy. Is it any wonder no one uses bit planes anymore?

On newer, VESA compliant video cards, more than 64k is allowed through windowing in real mode, and in protected mode there is no 64k limit.

We'd moved in to the room only half an hour ago, and everyone was busy checking everything out. As you do, of course.

"So, how do we get the projector working?" It was a familiar voice, but I wasn't sure whose.

Without shifting my gaze, I jabbed a thumb towards a panel in the middle of the floor, "Inputs for everything run through there I believe." I continued to read the collection of labels on the back of a camera at my eye-level, "Heh, looks like these have IR controls as well as serial." I carefully pointed the camera back into the room before stepping down from the chair I had been on.

"Man, these things have somewhere for you to plug in just about anything but a penis." I looked up to see K. inspecting the room's video projector.

I laughed. "For $4,000 a piece, they'd want to."

"Oh, what, $4,000? But their native res is only 1024x768." It was Morris, complaining as usual. Not that he didn't have a good point though.

"GW on the one," I shook my head.

"Is there any more powerpoints in there?" K. looked at the floor trap at my feet. I shrugged and flipped it open.

"Hmm, so, where is everything then?" The pit was rather bare compared to what I had expected, four GPOs and as many ethernet ports. "Perhaps they're underneath then?" Don't ask what gave me that idea, but maybe they were. After staring at the box I was kneeling at for a few seconds, my fingers flew to a set of locking tabs. A moment later, and the floor trap was now sitting on the floor beside me.

"Ahh," K. peered down the hole at the mass of cables that were now revealed. One by one he withdrew them and examined their labels.

"Yeah, it's all here," I informed the rest of the group when he had finished.

"What else is down there?" K. looked expectantly at me.

"Oh dear, Scout, what are you doing?", it was at this point that Jeremy entered the room. Whenever Jeremy gets involved, "Nah, that's probably not the best idea" almost always becomes "No, you really shouldn't do that".

I poked my head down, and swept a torch beam 360 degrees, "Can't see much, this cable trough is in the way." It wasn't really my idea. Actually, I'm not sure it was really anyone's idea, maybe more my instinct. "Hang on, I'll have a better look." I withdrew my head and spun around. First my feet went in, then my knees. A few seconds of squirming later, and my hips disappeared down the hole.

"Oh, no, Scout, don't do that," Mark began to take an interest in the proceedings. He buried his face in his hands as my abdomen continued to work its way down.

Jeremy looked at him and only laughed, "You know when you tell Scout something's a bad idea, he's going to do it." He turned to me, "How deep is that?"

"Uh, it's about 400 mil," I twisted my body sideways to allow my shoulders to pass.

"Wait, how big is that hole?"

I looked up at Jeremy, only my head visible now, pausing before I replied, "It's QVGA, 320x240."

He pressed his palm to his forehead as my head disappeared from view, "Here, take this with you." He handed me a small but heavy black object, "If you're going to be down there, I want it filmed in HD."

I took the camera without objection, and proceeded to walk on all fours, my body only just clear of the concrete underneath, away from the opening, making verbal notes of all that I found. In roughly fifteen minutes, I had reached the floor trap on the other side of the room. I called up through it, "Yeah, not a heck of a lot of interesting stuff down here." I paused to catch my breath. "Ok, you wanna pop this pit out? I'll come on up." I spent the next minute or so explaining to Jeremy how to remove the cable pit. A plastic ratchet was pulled back directly in front of me, a moment later and another 320x240 hole appeared.

I handed the camera up, then wormed towards the hole. "Urgh, conduit saddles, my shirt's caught on one." I reversed, unhooking my shirt. "'Kay, no worries," I tried to move forward again, but my shirt snagged again.

"You need a hand?" I could see Jeremy's face peering down at me.

"Gargh. Just a sec. I'll have to take my shirt off." I backed up once more, freeing my shirt. Five minutes later, and my shirt slipped off over my head. I tossed it up to Jeremy. Another ten minutes later, and my shoulders were both out. Someone I don't know kept giving odd looks in the direction of the desk I was coming up under, but said nothing.

Once more at "normal" floor level, Jeremy looked me up and down, noticing the dust I was covered in. He burst into laughter, "And here's me thinking you haven't done anything overly epic in a while..."

"So, can we have a look at that footage?" I needn't have asked, the camera was already plugged into his laptop, the video file half transferred.

And Jeremy says I am "an eternal fountain of bad ideas"... *sigh*

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