A Brief History of VISTA

VISTA was originally developed by Richard J. Stover and Tod R. Lauer (now at NOAO) in 1982 at the University of California, Santa Cruz for use on the UC Lick Observatory VAX/VMS systems. The original intent was to support reduction and analysis of data acquired with the first generation of CCD detectors coming into use at Lick at that time. Tod Lauer added much of the first surface photometry routines (based in part on routines developed by Steve Kent). The development of VISTA ran roughly in parallel with the development of the NOAO IRAF package, but the latter effort was supported on a greater scale and intended to be used by a wider community at the National Observatories. VISTA was originally only to support the observing activities at the University of California at Lick Observatory, but as students and postdocs from UC began to diffuse out into the community, VISTA followed. It has since been modified, augmented, improved and otherwise messed with continually since then, primarily by former graduate students and postdocs at UC Santa Cruz/Lick Observatory during the 1980s.

Version 3 was started in 1985 and was primarily the work of Don Terndrup (now at Ohio State) and Richard Stover (UCO/Lick), with contributions by Robert ("BF") Goodrich (Keck), Michael De Robertis (York University) , Jesus Gonzalez (UNAM), Jon Holtzman (NMSU), and Rick Pogge (Ohio State). It incorporated most of the spectroscopic reduction routines that are now part of VISTA, and introduced the first generation of stellar photometry programs.

Version 4 of VISTA was largely the work of Jon Holtzman, and in addition to fixing yet more bugs, the primary effort was to port the package to UNIX operating system. Several new features were also included, such as the capacity for better image interaction on Unix workstations using first SunView then X windows, PostScript image and plot hardcopy, an embedded version of the DAOPHOT photometry package (written by Peter Stetson at DAO, who graciously provided the code and allowed its inclusion within VISTA), Fourier transform routines, some new surface photometry routines, some routines for computing and applying extinction and transformation coefficients, etc. Many of the new routines, including the SUN video routines and the fast image arithmetic came from Tod Lauer. John Tonry (UH) provided basics for implementing the X11 video routines, while Steve Allen (UCO/Lick) provided the X11 graphics drivers for LickMongo. Rick Pogge wrote the PostScript image and graphics drivers. Jeff Willick (Stanford) and Stephane Courteau (DAO) provided some new surface photometry routines. The LickMongo package was incorporated into a distribution version, so VISTA no longer needed a separate standalone plotting package to be installed. Some features were turned off in Version 4: Many of the old stellar photometry routines were supplanted by the DAOPHOT versions, the old LINE and VTEC commands which were device specific have been discontinued, and VISTA no longer uses the PGPLOT plotting package.

Version 5 incorporates yet more bug fixes and new capabilities. It also has been modified to run under the Linux operating system on personal computers. This version of VISTA has been routinely run on Sun, DEC, and Linux workstations. The support for VMS workstations, however, has been discontinued, and we only support image and graphical display in the common X-windows environment. The manual has been converted to TeX, which allows exporting it in HTML format for WWW browsing using LaTeX2HTML.

The master version of VISTA is currently maintained by Jon Holtzman at New Mexico State University and is available via anonymous FTP and the WWW. See the appendices for details on how to obtain and install the package.