Now: Image processing and the software breakthrough
By the mid-1980s, a number of companies had introduced specialized image processing hardware. Incorporating proprietary and often parallel processing concepts, these machines were powerful but expensive. Standalone systems such as those from Vicom and Pixar were at the same time being challenged by modular hardware from companies like Datacube, the developer of the first Q-bus frame grabber for Digital Equipment Corp. computers. When PCs were invented in the same decade, board-level frame grabbers, processors and display controllers for the open architecture ISA bus began to emerge, and with them software callable libraries for image processing.
With the emergence of the PC’s PCI-Express bus, off-the-shelf frame grabbers can transfer images to the host PC at very high data rates using a number of different interfaces. The introduction of software packages from companies like Microscan, Matrox, MVTec, Teledyne DALSA, and Stemmer Imaging made it significantly easier to configure even the most sophisticated image processing and machine vision systems.