While other companies such as Mindset and Amiga Corp were touting their impressive graphics and sound capabilities, Atari was secretly working on its own very impressive systems.
Project "RAINBOW" was born out of Atari's Corporate Research group. Rainbow was the specification for high-end graphics and sound capabilities from a new set of chips. The graphics portion was called "Silver&Gold" and the audio portion was called "Amy".
Initially Rainbow would be implemented into a project by Doug Crockford and Rob Alkire: "The GUMP"...
This was a rather out of the ordinary name for a project.
Initially, during the research into the history behind this project,
it was thought that GUMP perhaps was an acronym for the project:
"Graphics User Multi Processor"
This sounded plausible, perhaps that was what GUMP stood for. After asking the two lead engineers, the answer came. Were we right? According to Doug Crockford, the answer was "No". In fact the meaning for Project GUMP couldn't have been any farther from what we had thought...
The GUMP was a character from "Return to Oz". Gump's were elk like creatures,
but "The Gump" was an elk head on a plaque attached to a sofa.
So now that the project name was straightened out and understood, it was time to delve into what GUMP was all about. After speaking with Robert Alkire who worked on Project GUMP and some comments on Sierra, here are his comments:
"GUMP was a reference design for Rainbow, one of several, in fact.
Gold was the VDAC and HSYNC/VSYNC generator - silver was
the SPRITE generator. We were trying to keep cost low and at
the time 40 pin chips were about the max we could go without getting pricey.
This meant splitting the graphics into two chips.
Sierra was a next gen Atari computer design. It had a different processor
weekly and was designed by committee - suffice to say - it was a mess.
It was nearly impossible to make any headway so I opted to work with Steve.
Steve started Rainbow and had an idea of a clean API for a graphics chip.
It was the two of us who designed the chips to RTL level. We worked with
the chip guys for the actual layout.
Doug Crockford made the lab, well... interesting. He taught me to juggle and
he is a great story teller/programmer. His papers are worth the read.
Amy was a sound chip effort. I can remember some of the names but not all.
Atari research was headed by Alan Kay and Christina Hooper. Later they
brought Ted Hoff in.