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Thirteen computer companies are now reported to be sponsoring the development of three dimensional functionality for Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s X-Window user interface, with undisclosed sums of money. Originally mooted back in 1987 by Sun Microsystems and DEC, the PHIGS Extension to X, or PEX, will allow X-Window users to run three dimensional graphics applications across a network. PEX is to incorporate both PHIGS, the Programmers Heirarchical Interactive Graphics System three dimensional standard, and PHIGS+, a proposed extension adding support for such features as lighting, shading and curve and surface primitives. Currently only two dimensional and limited 3D graphics images incorporating wire-frame and flat shading can be exchanged on networked systems using X-Windows. According to Computer Systems News, X-Window running the PEX standard will support full 3D images, incorporating such features as Z buffering, Gouraud shading and double buffering. Sun was originally awarded the contract to develop PEX, but the MIT X Consortium is co-ordinating and controlling all the work. Eventually the extension will be available as part of MIT’s software release at cost, with no licensing restrictions. For their part, the companies sponsoring PEX are also contributing to its development, and will receive a preliminary release of the software and documentation next summer. The first public release of PEX is scheduled for late 1990. The PEX sponsoring committee includes Sun and DEC, along with Apollo Computer Inc, Ardent Computer Corp, Data General Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co, Fujitsu Ltd, the Open software Foundation, Solbourne Computer Inc, Stellar Computer Inc, Textronix Inc, Unicad Inc and Evans and Sutherland Computer Corp.

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