Essay on Knight Rider technology

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Essay on Knight Rider technology

Post by HungarianKnight » Wed Dec 24, 2008 7:43 pm

Christmas really brought the Knight Rider nerd out of me. I was planning to write this for quite a time but now I had the time and the mood to do it.
This is actually a hypothetical technological description and history of the classic Knight Rider cars. I hope you find it interesting.

The technology of Knight Rider
A hypothetical history

Part I: An advanced architecture

When Wilton Knight started to work on his FLAG project and envisioned the concept of human-vehicle pairing, computer technology was just starting to become mainstream. The FLAG project was initiated in 1980 with the first theoretical approach towards the AI, nowdays known as the Knight Automated Roving Robot, or Karr. No vehicle was selected for the project at that time and the Knight Foundation's fundings were all chanelled to estabilish the framework for FLAG and the development of the first AI at Knight industries, the industrical branch of the Knight Foundation.
The first major problem of the Karr project was to build a supercomputer that could be stored within an ordinary car. In this time, civilian computer technology topped at the RadioShack TRS-80 home computer and the Atari 2600 gaming console. Both units had the physical dimensions to be installed within a vehicle, yet none of them had the needed computing capacity. Wilton Knight, and his team consisting of Marco Berio, Richard Alpert and Ian Browning conducted that no current computer architecture was powerful enough to run the envisioned AI system.
In this era, most computers were of an 8-bit architecture. Wilton Knight's team turned towards a more advanced data unit forat, the 16 bit architecture. In the early 1980's, 16 bit was an overall advanced concept and was seldomy used outside special configurations. Knight's team started to develop their own computer system, starting with a completely new type of CPUs. This new CPU, referred to only as "P", for Processor on the Knight vehicles' dashboards, were an offshoot of the Zilog Z80, the most succesful CPU of its time. The Knight "P" CPU was actually a parallell development to the Zilog Z8000, another CPU of the era.
The final product had the capabilities of bit manipulation, block move, block I/O, and byte search instructions, vectorized interrupt mode and four register files, operating on a 5V power supply. The layout supported multiprocessor architectures, a common feature before multiple-core systems became available. Clock frequencies ranged between 10 and 40 MHz, with the latter being available only with major overclocking, but was applied in many cases during the first years of the Knight Industries Two Thousand.
The main AI operating system was hard-coded into a standard one-time programmable EPROM unit. This unit was essentially the "soul" of the AI, storing the pre-programmed virtual personality, the behavioral patterns and the distinct attitude. During the run of the architecture, no two AI eproms were alike.
A set of sub-EPROMs stored the other essential data that shaped the AI. For example, Karr, the first fully functional AI had a sub-EPROM which prompted the artifical personality for self-preservation, while the second AI, the Knight Industries Two Thousand, also known as Kitt, had a similar EPROM with the primary programming of protecting human lives. Further EPROMs were encoded with specific computer applications, including sound and video editing and projecting, variate calculation and vehiculas applications. The basic AI EPROM was of the 64 KB range, the sub-EPROMs were of 32 KB.
Further data was stored on "flash" type memory units (The name "flash memory" was coined by Dr. Fujio Masuoka of Thosiba and was never used within Knight Industries. Flash memory units became available in 1984, via the help of industrial espionage within Knight Industries and with KI's Dr. Hiro Yamata leaking essential technological information to Toshiba. In 1985, the Knight Foundation sued Toshiba and eventually lost the suit.). These memory units had larger memory capacity and quicker R/W and access time than contemporary hard disk drives and tape drives and were also more applicable for the "rugged computer" design favoured by Knight Industries. These memory units were connected to the mainboard using an interface precursor of the SCSI, developed by Alan Shugart exclusively for Knight Industries. Data contained within these units was downloaded in regular cycles and archieved on tape drives. The cumuative maximal data storage capacity of these units were 30 million Kilobytes, expanded to 50 million during the 1985 refit of the Kitt unit .
Random Access Memory was provided by four Dynamic RAM modules, synchronised between the sparate units but not internally, thus not SDRAMs. Sensory data encoding and decoding, audio and video editing and even computer/human interaction required a fast access time and RAM access was boosted up to 1 nanosecond. The maximal RAM capacity for all computers of Knight's architecture was 1000 MegaBit .
Video output was achieved via two independent graphics accelerators, one for each of the two CRT screens. The design of these video modules were standard Intel CGA units, not a native development of Knight Industries. The graphic processors were able to project a 16 colour palette on NTSC based screens with further colours using the "dithering" method. Video resolution was 320X200 pixels with 40X25 characters in text mode. The 1985 refit of the Kitt unit utilised only one graphics accelerator for the single dashboard-mounted screen. This graphics module was of the EGA standard, with a 640X200 pixel resolution in full 64 colour mode.
The audio output required special attention. With voice interaction between computer and human being the most important aspect of the concept, realistic sound generation was required for the AI unit. A completely independent design was developed with the sound chip functioning in the 12 bit range. Audio output was a three-channel system with the middle channel always reserved for the AI voice, represented by a LED-based waveform monitor, collocquially referred to as the "voice modulator".
Connection to the system was available using five DE-9 auxiliary slots, RCA and 3,5 mm TRS connectors. The system also utilised a wireless radio data communication unit, mostly for interaction with other computer systems, aided by a special 8 bit-16 bit conversion module to eliminate competibility problems.

Part II: The car of the future

Wilton Knight's original choice was the 1980 Pontiac Trans Am. With the high hopes of finishing the prototype AI in 1980, he wanted this sleek and powerful-looking vehicle to house the computer. Because of the constant delays of the Computer Research Department of Knight Industries, the 1980 Trans Am faded into obsolescence with the introduction of the third generation Trans Am in 1982.
With the third generation Trans Am being more elegant and aerodynamic then its precursor, Wilton Knight personally selected this design for his project. The external layout of the vehicle was redesigned only in small scale, the most characteristic alternation being the lengthened front end housing the primary sensory unit.
To make the vehicle appropriate for its purpouses, the external shell was coated with a special laminate compound known as the Molecular Bonded Shell. With the exact formula of the compound never being disclosed to public, the only known features of it is that it is composed mostly of fullerenes (giving the characteristic glossy back exterior) combined into single-wall carbon nanotubes, with an unnamed special chemical which bonds the fullerenes into the metal lattice of the original vehicular exterior. The resulting surface has approximately a two Gigapascals tensile strength, resisting most impacts, projectile weapons and explosions. Only two methords are known to disrupt the nanotubes, one being a focused thermal beam (also known as a thermolaser ) and a chemical formula .
The car needed a special engine to propel it far beyond the speeds of the stock Chevrolet four-stroke engine. A miniature jet engine was developed with an onboard cooling mechanism to cool down exhaust gases. Air intake was realised using a supercharger compressor. A secondary turbocharger was installed into the exhaust system, but instead of re-directing the engine's own exhaust gases into the air intake manifold, it accelerated the gases to a level that it made the car lift off the ground. This maneuver, a characteristc of the car, was dubbed "Turbo Boost" by the designers.
The car was also re-configured for a special driving technique originating from the world of automobile stunts, known as "skiing", meaning driving while the car is balanced on two side wheels. Special computer-feedback gyroscopes were added to each wheel to maintain balance.
Structural feedback of the external shell was provided by a net of feedback units. These units were simplistic in design, with damage being indicated within the computer when a unit ceased to transmit a signal to the CPU.
A much more complex system of sensory feedback was provided by a "scanner bar" consisting of eight orb-shaped sensor modules encased within rectangular metal housings and protected with a ruby quartz grille (red in colour but amber-esque when deteriorated tue to a prolonged exposure to salt water) to filter out radiation and protect from impacts. The eight units had distinct sensory capabilities and ranges. In most cases, no two of these units were functioning simultanously. Only one unit was fully activated with the other activating while the previous powering down. The units, when powered, were emitting a bright light, essentially forming an oscillating row of lights moving back and forth.
A third, and most important sensory unit was a form of "neural net", wired to all modules of the vehicle. This net provided feedback from all units of the car to the computer and its layout was shaped by the AI itself. Thus an AI could not function with an other one's neural net. The removal and re-installation of the neural net was a long and expensive procedure, essentially meaning the complete dismantling of the car. This is the reason why a new vehicle was built for the second AI unit after the Karr fiasco.
Connection between the vehicular subsystems, the neural net and the computer was realised with a so-called "alpha circuit", a smaller computer with its respective CPU and RAM located in the rear cabling junction of the undergarriage. Damage to this unit could result from the inaccessability of various sub-systems to a complete vehicular shutdown .
Wilton Knight's customised car ran under the working name of Trans Am 2000. Only two units are known to be ever produced.

Part III: A beautiful mind

While the computer units and vehicular appliances were prepared in distinct Knight Industries laboratories, a set of AI entities were being programmed at Stanford University, California, funded by Knight Industries Computer Research Department. Programming was conducted on Cray-1 supercomputers. AI programming was difficult, especially with Wilton Knight's concept of a heuristic problem solving method. While the original plans called for a year to develop the AIs, it took the programmers two and a half years to complete them. Eventually, two AI systems developed true consciousness. The first one, Karr, was installed on an ARPANET mainframe to process data communication, while the second one, Kitt, went online on a Washington government mainframe . After a few months, Karr was installed into the first Trans Am 2000 vehicle but was soon de-activated due to a programing error in its directival sub-EPROM. A new car was built with Kitt's CPU installed and an advanced directival EPROM being added, thus creating a revised version of Karr and a unit more appropriate to Wilton Knight's plans. Because both AIs were given male voices, they are usually referred to as "he" instead of "it".

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Re: Essay on Knight Rider technology

Post by Sky_Blue_Civic » Thu Dec 25, 2008 11:51 pm

Cool essay! :D Gives a lot of information about KITT and KARR's technological aspects! :)
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Re: Essay on Knight Rider technology

Post by Showpro1 » Fri Dec 26, 2008 1:47 am

I have to say that the essay is an enjoyable read which takes what we know along with an interesting back story
that make total sense.
You should be a writer on the new Knight Rider series, I would bet you could have written a plausable storyline
that would bring in a logical the Foundation forward from what was.
Great work,

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Re: Essay on Knight Rider technology

Post by My_Friend_KITT » Fri Dec 26, 2008 5:19 am

Your essay was great! I loved this too
The name "flash memory" was coined by Dr. Fujio Masuoka of Thosiba and was never used within Knight Industries. Flash memory units became available in 1984, via the help of industrial espionage within Knight Industries and with KI's Dr. Hiro Yamata leaking essential technological information to Toshiba. In 1985, the Knight Foundation sued Toshiba and eventually lost the suit.

2 Thumbs up from me.
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Re: Essay on Knight Rider technology

Post by Sue » Fri Dec 26, 2008 6:25 pm

That was great! I could read a whole book like that!
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Re: Essay on Knight Rider technology

Post by PHOENIXZERO » Fri Dec 26, 2008 8:26 pm

Wow, I finally got around to reading it and I'm glad I did. Very, very nice work! This is the kind of background stuff that would have been great to have in a series bible though I doubt they even could have thought of this sort of stuff. It's also something those involved with the new show should be coming up with. It would be make for a great read on the Knight Industries Research site instead of the boring stuff that's there now... Though they would probably not mention Toshiba, heh.

But like I said nice, no great work! :good:
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Re: Essay on Knight Rider technology

Post by maxwellmilian » Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:45 pm

There were three cars..... !

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Re: Essay on Knight Rider technology

Post by SacValleyDweller » Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:57 am

Fascinating reading.

As still more or less a noob to the KR universe, it helps me to understand some of the science in the fiction that is Knight Rider, and appreciate the legacy of the KR. It aslo provisdes an overview some of of Ki2t's capabilities for the viewers of Knight Rider TOS, and provides a sort of spoiler material that I want. (I'll now know more of what Ki2t can do for when I see any KR TOS in the future)

Very well written! :thumbsup:

Edit: Any chance that you'd be writing a follow-up for the developments that led to Ki3t?

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Re: Essay on Knight Rider technology

Post by standgeo » Mon Dec 29, 2008 3:18 am

That's really good. Congratulations. You should go out there and help n the retooling. Your ideas are great. Hope the writers read Knight Rider online from time to time. :D