Molecular Graphics on PCs

Reinhard Doelz doelz at comp.bioz.unibas.ch
Tue Jul 21 12:49:24 EST 1992

In article <1992Jul21.162039.15641 at gserv1.dl.ac.uk>, BIONET at EARN.FRCGM51 writes:
|>         Like many others, I'm amazed by the performance/price ratios of the
|> i486-based PCs. Three years ago, I was a fan of the Macintosh and
|> considered the PCs with some condescencion. Now I'm changing my mind. Even
|> the monstruous MS-Windows is quite fast!
|>         Well, we need here a graphics system to *visualize* protein
|> structures. Not edit them and perform huge calculations. Just visualize in
|> a comfortable environment. We thought of a SGI Indigo machine. But now...
|>         Does anyone know a good molecular graphics package for the PC,
|> running -for example- under MS-Windows or SCO Unix (X-Windows) ? Can be
|> commercial if necessary.
|>         Thank you.
Sorry, but that sounds a bit dangerous. The term molecular graphics implies
the use of graphics. GRAPHICS. Depending on what you want to achieve, I find
that 8 bits are not suitable for usual molecular modelling. Even if so,
you will need to have a better than VGA graphics anyhow. If you ever saw
a good 3D representation of a molecule on a PC, I doubt that it was a protein.
You might have looked at a peptide instead. Simple rotations get you the 
imagination of depth, but if it takes a couple of seconds to redraw the 
screen you can't call this 'animation' any longer. 

Talk about prices. If you purchase a reasonable 486 PC with, lets say, 450
MB hard disk, streamer, CDROM , large screen, mouse, operating system 
and draft printer it will cost you about $ 8-10 K in Europe (if you buy 
clones). For twice the price you get a damned good workstation. If you 
buy a cheap version (i.e., small disk, no streamer, etc) you get down to 
about $15 K. However, this workstation has power to display molecules rather 
than throw them on-screen occasionally. 

Talk about performance. The MFlops are getting cheaper these days, and 
a workstation of today is old-fashioned tomorrow. So why buy a chip which is 
expected to be no longer to of the crop next year ? The successor is currently
named P5 and will be shown in equipment at the comdex exhibition Fall this 

Concluding, I have a Indigo on my desktop and there is also a Mac. 
I have not invested in PCs because of price/performance on the LONG run. 
I think it's better to go the workstation road if you want to do 

|    Dr. Reinhard Doelz            | RFC     doelz at urz.unibas.ch         |
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