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Once upon a time there was the Connectix QuikCam

Thu Apr 30, 2015 7:32 pm

Long before Logitech took over the classic golfball webcam, some Brits (& others) started hacking it to study the stars. I happened on a vintage webpage while looking for their Darkgen software (a precursor of Wide Dynamic Range, which was very early linux code), and thought some here might also enjoy 'steam-era' maker's nostalgia and the photos they took are still worth a looksee.

"QuickCam and Unconventional Imaging Astronomy Group QCUIAG

We were to probe the limits of these devices and to try to extend these limits by producing software and/or hardware modifications...

The Connectix B/W and colour webcams had software that actually had long exposures built into it. The trouble was, that it simply didn't work. Well, it didn't work unless the software spontaneously 'broke'. The task was to discover how to 'break' the software at will. The Connectix software engineers did look at this for us, but to no avail. Eventually, Dave Allmon, a Linux man at heart, discovered that there was Linux code that was able to 'talk' to the B/W camera and control the length of the exposure of this frame-transfer device.

QCV2 is the software which controls the camera and takes the exposures. It uses the ported Linux code and does not use the Connectix Video for Windows drivers. He also discovered that a very simple hardware modification, the cutting of a single wire to disable antiblooming, completed the camera system, and true long exposures were possible.
In 1999-2000, Colin Bownes produce Vega, a brilliant piece of software designed to capture BMPs and AVIs from webcams and surveillance cameras. This software evolved to meet subsequent challenges.

In the spring of 2000, Juergen Liesmann published deep sky images taken with a low-light surveillance camera.
Juergen's software, written in Java and running under Linux, was able to sum large numbers of video frames, each of 1/50s exposure, into deep Fits files. Off-chip video integration was well and truly under way."

Much more and some very snazzy hardware hacks at

ps There may well be something of use here, as the next Pi camera board is considered...

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