The Last Card?
by Dennis Mclaren.
There are several reasons why so many of us want to hang onto our
Nascoms/Galaxies/MA Ps, but I can think of none better than the fact that the newer
computers, though bigger and faster, are not fundamentally different from our old
What I mean is that IBMs, Amigas, STs – even Challengers are sequential
von-Neumann type machines and I can learn nearly all I could ever wish to know
about such machines from my Nascom 2/Gemini hybrid.
I also enjoy having a circuit diagram for every card in my system, good
documentation (a horrid word that !) plus a 10 slot bus. Try to get any of those with
Nevertheless, Parallel Processing is arriving on the scene and the chips that it
requires are coming down in price. Large memory systems are starting to appear
and software will always expand to fill them.
How can we tap into this new world using our existing heavy investment in 8-bit
I don’t think that using the serial port is the most effective way. Loading an
n Mbyte program from my existing disk system to a diskless Transputer system at
19,200 bauds would not be tolerable for long, neither would having to pipe results
back via the same bottleneck.
I believe that the design of a Nas/80-BUS plug-in Transputer development card
would best enable us to hook in to the new technology in an interim way.
Such a card would have to earn its keep in the 8-bit world by pretending to be an
8 Mbyte Ram disk. As a transputer card, it would need to be able to address the full
memory range of the Transputer – 4 Gbytes (Software always expands etc.)
otherwise it wouldn’t be future proof.
To be affordable, the card would have to work with only a little of its memory
plugged in. The full amount of memory might not fit onto an 8 x 8 card, so an
expansion bus might have to be provided, for example, for a piggy back memory
board, or even for compact types of memory yet to be invented.
I wonder whether such a card would sell in large enough numbers? So many
people have moved over to the IBM/Clone camp and any number of Transputer
cards are available to them (including a good Gemini one).
It’s the one card nobody makes for the Nas/80-BUS. It would be a fascinating
challenge to the designer and would bring new life to our systems. It’s the card I
really want and I’m blowed if I’m going to buy an IBM to reach it.