Lessons from discarded computer architectures Andrew E. Fluck University of Tasmania
BBC microcomputer
BBC User port  (8 bit input & output) BBC Analogue port  IBM PC card Speaker SNIC card  (special needs interface)
Tudor Brown
Uni-processor Distributed processors Pyramid of store Processor(s)
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WCC2010: Lessons from discarded computer architectures


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From the BBC computer to ARM processor licences: from uni-processors to transputer grids.

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  • The BBC microcomputer was an 8-bit machine based on the Motorola 6502 processor. It made a huge impact in British schools, putting predecessors into the shade of its colour graphics. Its successor, the Archimedes was almost as successful, but ran into the juggernaut of the IBM PC – and the rest is history. Almost. Based on the 8-bit Motorola 6502 processor, the initial model had 16k bytes of RAM, and cost GBP 299. Backup storage was initially to cassette tape, with floppy disks (5¼”) coming later.
  • John Coll, an electronics teacher from Oundle School was hired to write the user manual for the BBC micro [4] and also appeared in related television programs. This author recalls sitting in his office to discuss a new programming project when one of the operating system programmers rushed in. He had recoded some graphics routines and saved 10 bytes of space in the ROM. This would make possible the inclusion of an additional function! John Coll appeared regularly on the television programmes Making the Most of the Micro and Micro Live - he was also closely involved in the development of the BBC Micro with Acorn Computers . Prior to that, he taught physics at Keil School and electronics at Oundle School , where he was a tutor at Laxton House. John now runs Connection Software www.csoft.co.uk a telecoms software house and ASP specialising in SMS, MMS and VOIP. Publications * "The BBC Microcomputer User Guide" was written by John Coll and edited by David Allen for the British Broadcasting Corporation. * Many articles in the initial years of "Personal Computer World" Dominic Verity A/Prof Dominic Verity Formal Name: Dominic Verity Preferred Name: Dominic Personal Title: A/Prof Location: E6A 360 Telephone Number: +61-2-9850-9522 Fax Number: +61-2-9850-9509 Mail Address: [email_address] Web Site: http://www.ppdp.mq.edu.au/ Other Mail Address: [email_address] Positions: Associate Professor Computing Department of Computing Faculty of Science Macquarie University NSW 2109 Australia Dominic Verity received the 2008 Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence. These awards recognize our best Macquarie academic lecturers for their commitment to excellence in their teaching practices, particularly over the year prior to the award. Dominic was also  appointed a Visiting Professor in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, University of Cambridge, UK (September-October 2009) and elected Visiting Fellow at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge UK (Michaelmas Term 2009).
  • The BBC micro was very popular in British schools. As part of the government support for schools IBM sponsored a project for the Redbridge SEMERC (Special Education Microelectronics Resource Centre) by M-Tec computer services (UK) to create a card for the IBM Personal Computer which would replicate some of the interface ports on the BBC micro. Devices such as the concept keyboard and various robotic turtles (controlled by variants of the LOGO language) were so popular, this sought to ease the conversion of educational software onto the more dominant platform. The SNIC card (special needs interface card) had a short life.
  • Acorn Archimedes The first models were released in June 1987, as the 300 and 400 series. The A3000 used an 8 MHz ARM 2 and was supplied with 1 MB of RAM. Unlike the previous models, the A3000 came in a single-part case
  • Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) was formed in 1990 ARM Holdings ( LSE : ARM , NASDAQ :  ARMH ) is a British technology company headquartered in Cambridge , England , UK . The company is best known for its processors . The acronym ARM originally stood for Acorn RISC Machine. The company name ARM stands for Advanced RISC Machines. This name was changed, around the time of the IPO , to "ARM Holdings", since it was felt the term RISC, which indicates a type of CPU design, being phonetically identical to "risk," would deter people unfamiliar with computers. ARM is the processor used in both the Apple iPhone and Amazon's Kindle. ARM shipped its 10 billionth processor this year and in 2008 alone shipped 2.5 billion processors. ARM chips are in about 98 percent of all cell phones out today.
  • Tudor Brown - President Tudor Brown was one of the founders of ARM. Before joining the Company, he was at Acorn Computers where he worked on the ARM R&D programme. He joined the board in 2001 and became President in 2008 with responsibility for developing high-level relationships with industry partners and governmental agencies and for regional development. His previous roles include Engineering Director and Chief Technology Officer, EVP Global Development and Chief Operating Officer. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and is a non-executive director of ANT plc. He currently sits on the UK Government China Task Force. Tudor Brown. He studied Electrical Engineering at Cambridge University, and was awarded an M.A. in Electrical Sciences. He was enticed back to the city again in 1983 to join Acorn Computers, where he worked on the ARM R&D program as Principal Engineer. When ARM spun out from Acorn as a joint venture with Apple, he became Engineering Director and then Chief Technical Officer from 1993 [9]. In October 2000 he was appointed Executive Vice President, Global Development and in October 2001, joined the board of ARM as Chief Operating Officer. He became President in 2008 with responsibility for developing high-level relationships with industry partners and governmental agencies and for regional development
  • Apple iPad uses a RISC processor – the A4. Commentators claim it incorporates the ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore Firstly, the BBC microcomputer was quickly supplanted by the open-architecture IBM PC and the closed architecture Apple Macintosh. However, the RISC processor designed for the BBC microcomputer’s successor has been widely adopted because of its very low power consumption. In a world faced by climate challenge and a huge growth in the use of mobile computing devices, this has been a winning strategy. As of 2007, about 98 percent of the more than one billion mobile phones sold each year use at least one ARM processor Thursday, August 26, 2010: Like the iPhone 4 and iPad, the new Apple TV will run the iOS operating system and be powered by a processor with ARM architecture, and will also have access to the App Store, according to one prominent analyst.
  • Figure 9- 10: A toroidal mesh of 16 transputers. Because the mesh uses up all four links of the transputer, an extra transputer is needed at the end of one ring to provide an interface to the Host. It is possible to implement a 4 by 4 toroidal mesh with only 16 transputers if one uses virtual channels. All right, things are going to get slightly complicated, so let's follow a simple example of the case where A , B , and C are 4 by 4 matrices, and the sub-blocks are of size 1. That is, we have 16 transputers organized as a 4 by 4 toroidal mesh. Assigning indexes to the transputers, as shown in Figure 9-10, we have each Transputer Tij in charge of computing Cij . Let's investigate first a mapping where we assign Aij and Bij to Tij as well. This will allow us to explore the pattern of compute/communicate actions. We concentrate on Transputer T22. The second lesson can be drawn from the way personal computer operating systems have been largely linked to processor families. Most of the main lines of growth have been limited to von Neuman uni-processor architectures. Even the development of quad or more core processors are still just variants of this sequential flow machine, albeit allowing a few more threads to access different parts of memory simultaneously. The lesson of how to break away from this design template has yet to be learned.
  • D-Wave Systems, the self-proclaimed "first and only provider of quantum computing systems designed to run commercial applications" will be demonstrating an end-to-end quantum computing system powered by a 16-qubit superconducting adiabatic quantum computer processor. The so-called Orion system is a hardware accelerator designed to be used in concert with a conventional front end for any app... The processor used in the demo uses 16 qubits in a 4 by 4 array, coupled to nearest neighbours, and next-nearest neighbours. By tuning these inter-qubit couplings, then applying an external magnetic field, the system finds a ground state which represents the solution to the problem. Thus, the model being demonstrated would, in principle, be able to solve any problem that can be cast in terms of a two dimensional Ising model in a magnetic field. Whilst not universal, D-wave are planning the integration of an additional coupler which will make possible universal quantum computation, as required for quantum simulation - one of the potentially large markets for quantum computers. The third lesson relates to the Transputer and ways in which these chips could be wired in arrays. Even declarative languages such as Prolog were not ported successfully to this architecture in such a way to facilitate problem solving which became mainstream. We appear to lack an understanding of how to implement solutions using these kinds of techniques.
  • WCC2010: Lessons from discarded computer architectures

    1. 1. Lessons from discarded computer architectures Andrew E. Fluck University of Tasmania
    2. 2. BBC microcomputer
    3. 4. BBC User port (8 bit input & output) BBC Analogue port IBM PC card Speaker SNIC card (special needs interface)
    4. 5. Archimedes
    5. 7. Tudor Brown
    6. 9. Uni-processor Distributed processors Pyramid of store Processor(s)