Fractint

From Academic Kids

Fractint is a freeware open source software package that can render and display many kinds of fractals. Its name comes from the words fractal and integer, since the first versions of it computed fractals by using only integer arithmetics, which led to much faster rendering on x86 computers without math coprocessors. Since then, floating-point arithmetics and "arbitrary precision" modes have been added, the latter of which emulates an arbitrarily large mantissa in RAM. The arbitrary-precision mode is slow even on modern computers, and one image reputedly took 3 weeks to generate on an i486.

Fractint can draw most kinds of fractals that have appeared in the literature. It also has a few "fractal types" that are not strictly speaking fractals, but may be more accurately described as display hacks. These include cellular automata.

The program originated on the MS-DOS platform, but has since been ported to X and Microsoft Windows. It is currently at version 20.0, and no new versions have been released for several years. As of early 2004, the Microsoft Windows version does not include arbitrary precision mode, and the X version is somewhat counterintuitive to use. Gentoo Linux, and possibly other distributions, have a facility to automatically install the X version.

History

Fractint originally appeared in 1988 as FRACT386, a computer program for rendering fractals very quickly on the Intel 80386 processor using integer arithmetic. Most '386 processors of the era did not come with floating point units, so the integer approach was much faster.

Early versions were written by Bert Tyler, but were based on an even more ancient program for rendering the Mandelbrot set called DKMANDEL.ARC (written by J. Douglass Klein), although by the time of the first popular version, FRACT386 2.1, no original code from this program remained.

In February 1989 the program was renamed Fractint.

It is written and maintained by the "Stone Soup Group" who took their name from the fable of the stone soup. With Emacs and Nethack, it is one of the oldest free software programs still being maintained.

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