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Five years ago This is Issue No. 1 of The Register, which is now five years old: ====== The Register Number 1 25 July 1994 Edited by John Lettice & Mike Magee email: connect@magee.demon.co.uk -------------------------------------------------- DISPLAY'S COLOUR FLAT PANELS SET TO DOUBLE Display Technologies, the IBM-Toshiba joint venture company set up to produce flat-panel colour displays, is to double production to 200,000 units a month. Production at an IBM plant in Shiga, Japan is being switched over from semiconductors at a cost of $400 million. In the past few months several companies, including Hyundai, Samsung and Matsushita, have said they will ramp up production, but total world capacity for large active matrix TFT displays, which on manufacturers projections will reach six million units in the next six to 12 months, still looks unlikely to keep pace with demand from the portable computer market. The critical shortages of the 10.4in units used in IBM's ThinkPads, however is likely to ease with the introduction of new plant. Most of this will be designed to handle larger pieces of glass which can produce four 10.4in panels; older plant can only produce two, plus a considerable amount of waste. The increased volume of 10.4in is likely to alter the mix of portable sales, with 10.4in becoming the de facto standard for power user portables. INTEL DROPS JAPANESE FLASH FOUNDRY Intel's strategy on flash memory looks in disarray after its decision to stop production of products at its NPNX (formerly NMB) Semiconductor plant in Japan. After the shortfall in production during late 1992 and 1993, Intel invested many millions of dollars equipping the NBM fab plant, which produced .8 micron wafers. Bernie Perrin, European marketing manager of non-volatile memories at rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) told The Register: "I think they [Intel] are still committed to flash. Intel spent a lot of money bringing up NMB and found technology has moved away from that range of products.' He said that customers were demanding 5volt flash memory and Intel, with its SmartVoltage technology had probably not even sampled yet. "From our point of view, we are winning designs everywhere with 5volt technology," he claimed. "Intel has realised there isn't the huge market out there for older products they've got." He said Intel was "depressing the market" for flash memory and projecting prices people "would find it difficult to live with. He claimed AMD was meeting the market demand on flash products. "Our joint venture [with Fujitsu] comes on stream at the beginning of next year and our current lead times are 12 weeks," he said. Perrin claimed Intel now found itself with only two major product areas, processors and flash memory. "Intel may have been caught," he said. "A lot of the fabs aren't being built to make flash memory and I'd question how long they will be in flash. It will become a commodity and they're not very good on commodities." ARM CLOSER TO CONSUMERS A licensing deal with Asahi Chemical's semiconductor division, Asahi Kasei Microsystems (AKM) is likely to increase Advanced Risc Machines' chances of success in consumer markets. ARM was founded four years ago by Acorn, Apple and VLSI technology, with the brief to produce cheap, low-power Risc processors for a range of applications, including hand-held units and embedded controllers. The deal allows AKM to combine the ARM7 processor with its own CMOS mixed-signal LSI technology to produce high speed, communications-aware silicon. AKM already uses this technology to manufacture components for mobile phones and other communications devices, supplying most of the major Japanese electronics companies. ARM already does business with Cirrus Logic, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, Samsung, Sharp and TI, and its products are used in the motor industry, handheld devices and peripheral controllers. IBM SELLS ARDIS TO MOTOROLA As has been expected for several months, IBM has agreed to sell its stake in the US Ardis wireless communications system to Motorola. Ardis, which covers 400 cities and 10,000 smaller towns, span out of an internal IBM communications system, and was set up as a joint venture by the two companies in 1990. Selling out to Motorola is not a case of IBM losing interest, but is intended to help the company avoid charges of favouritism. The deal increases Motorola's strength in the wireless market, but the company will need to invest substantially in the coverage and design of the network in order to beat-off new rivals. Motorola is also likely to expand Ardis' use out of the business market, using devices like its Envoy PDA/telephone to pick up customers in the consumer market where mobile phones left off. MOTOROLA CLAIMS PRIZE IN AIM BENCHMARK TEST The Motorola Computer Group claimed victory last week over four processor offerings from AST, Data General, Digital, Sun and Unisys. The MCG Series 900 M963 was first in two categories -- best price sustained performance and best price/peak performance. The results were as follows: Best price/sustained performance $50-$100K List price AIM PR $/AIM 900 Model 963 $64773 1129 œ37 DG AviiON 8500 $77945 1271 $61 AST Manhattan SMP-4 $68757 998 $69 PARCcenter 1000 4CPUs $80500 1149 $70 DEC 3000 Model 500S $53088 649 $82 Unisys U6000 65 5CPUs $83950 960 $87 Unisys U6000 65 4CPUs $74950 826 $91 Best price/peak performance $50-$100K List price AIM PR $/AIM 900 Model 963 $64773 1162 $557 SPARCcenter 1000 4CPUs $80500 138.2 $582 DG AviiON 8500 Quad $77945 132.2 $590 AST Manhattan SMP-4 $68757 114.1 $603 Motorola 8000/8540 $55967 87.6 $639 DEC 3000 Model 500S $53088 82.9 $640 DEC 3000 Model 800S $93844 119.3 $787 DIGITAL DEVISES SALES CHANNEL FOR DEVICES Involuntary downsizer Digital Equipment Corporation is putting new sales channels in place in a bid to increase sales of its Alpha AXP Risc procesor and PCI chipsets. The company is to push semiconductor sales under VP of semiconductor marketing Arthur Swift, and worldwide sales manager Richard Riker. The company will appoint area sales managers for North America, Europe and Asia, who will work with application engineers, distributors and manufacturer's representatives. Digital has so far been relatively unsuccessful in establishing the Alpha as any kind of a serious Risc standard, but is nevertheless refusing to admit defeat, sees it as its major strategic line of business, and is selling off other, more profitable operations in order to dig itself out of its current crisis. Life could however get better for Alpha, as the arrival of serious mass-market Risc machines later this year will encourage down-the-line Intel supporters to look at Risc alternatives. Rumour has it that, as and when Dell decides to jump, it could well jump to Alpha. RAMBUS AND NINTENDO STRIKE DEAL OVER FAST MEMORY Nintendo claimed last week its 64-bit Ultra 64 video game system -- slated for autumn 1995 -- will give 500MHz processor to memory performance by using technology from Rambus Inc. According to Nintendo America chairman Howard Lincoln, the adoption of Rambus technology will be affordable and provide the procesing speed required to create 'a totally new' video game experience. The Ultra 64, a joint development by Silicon Graphics (SG) and Nintendo is likely to cost less than $250, the company said. Rambus uses a new type of DRAM architecture coupled with high processing speeds, according to Geoff Tate, Rambus Inc's president. Other companies incorporating the Rambus interface include NEC and Toshiba, while another eleven companies are thought to be close to signing deals for licences. Rambus Inc. is the world's leading developer of high speed interface technology, which the company licenses to semiconductor manufacturing companies. The publicly announced companies developing or delivering components that comply with the Rambus interface standard include Toshiba Corporation, NEC Corporation, Oki, Hitachi, Goldstar and others. NEC and Toshiba already offer 0.5u CMOS ASIC technology and RISC based memory controllers based on Rambus technology. INTEL SELLS PLD BUSINESS TO ALTERA Intel has sold its PLD (programmable logic device) business to San Jose company Altera for $50million. Intel will retain a 5% stake in the company and will transfer its licences and product to the company, as well as supplying it with silicon wafers. Bernie Perrin, European marketing manager of PLD products at AMD described the decision as "quite amazing." He said Intel had told customers and the press this year that they would become big in the market. "Certainly they've been quoting aggressive pricing," he said, "and really making their presence known. Quite suddenly to reverse out of a market seems strange to me and shows very little regard for customers." He though the reason for the Intel decision was that the company would have to spend a lot of money to "claw their way up the ladder. "Looking at all the reversed decisions they've made over last few months there must be some thread running through it," he added. SAMPLE RATES INTRODUCES AUDIO DSP MODULE Finnish company Sample Rates has launched a DSP module -- the M4-0202-A, which uses the 56004 signal processor and includes a stereo audio pre-amplifier, 18-bit A/D and D/A convertors and a processor controllable output level control. According to the company, the module can either operate as an evaluation platform or independently by botting up from on-board program memory. Input gain is adjustable up to 60dB, with sample rates running between 32 to 48KHz. It uses the 40MHz version of the 56004 processor, provides 32K of program memory and can use up to 4MB of data memory with a standard SIMM. It includes an expansion connector for the user interface, and costs $1995 with additional modules costing up to $695. Sample Rate also offers development tools for its systems. Phone + 358 31 3165 045 or e-mail Juha.Kuusama@mail.sci.fi. SUN-MITSUBISHI RAM DEAL Sun and Mitsubishi have developed a form of graphics RAM that increases video performance tenfold. 3D RAM is expected to sample late this year, and go into production in early 95. It uses a new frame buffer technology to render 100 pixel triangles at around 1.8 million triangles per second, compared to 210,000 per second with 2M VRAMs. The technology will appear first in high performance 3D workstations, but as its cost will ultimately be comparable to VRAM, it ought to gravitate to arcade machines, desktops and ultimately, to games consoles. Current PC processor technology is however a tad too slow to be able to use 3D RAM, so it's unlikely to make an impact in the mass market much before the arrival of the P6. FIGHT ON FOR PC POLE POSITION The battle for the top slot in the PC market is on with a vengeance, according to prelimary figures for second quarter PC sales from research outfit IDC. Compaq managed a 65 per cent increase in its sales, up to 1.15 million units, while IBM, which is usually weak in Q2, managed only a one per cent rise to 900,000. Apple shipped 855,000. The figures should not entirely be viewed as an indicator of how the market will go over the whole of 1994, although IBM's obvious screw-up indicates that the company still has a lot more work to do before it can categorically be described as 'fixed.' Despite finally starting to produce machines the market is actually impressed by, the company has been plagued by shortages and has confused the market with multiple models and brands. And if it doesn't get its act together fast, it is in danger of being entirely overtaken by Compaq in 1994. In 1993, IBM sold 4.4 million machines, Apple 3.6 million and Compaq 3 million. The prospect of a slugging match in Q3 and Q4 may well suggest where Intel's large inventory is going to go... WAFER STANDARD SET TO RISE Where do we go after 8in? The cost of trading up the standard silicon wafer size is probably too great now for any one company to contemplate, but a summit attended by companies from the US, Japan and Europe at the Semicon/West show in San Francisco earlier this month has agreed to settle on 300mm, or 12 inches as the next standard size. Some matters still have to be settled, but they are thought not to include the vexed metric/imperial question. A global task force in two segments, US/Europe and Japan/Asia Pacific, will be formed to determine how the switch will be made, and will be coordinated by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), which sponsored the show. The summit included representatives from Sematech of the US, JESSI from Europe and EIAJ (Electronics Industry Association of Japan). The next scheduled meeting for the task forces will be held at Semicon/Japan in Tokyo in December 1994. A timescale for the production of 12in wafers should be established by Semicon/Europa in April 1995. CHICAGO, CHICAGO -- MY KIND OF TOWN? What kind of hardware will your customers need to run Chicago? The same as before? Well, up to a point, because although for obvious reasons the manufacturers who've figured this one out are keeping pretty quiet, Chicago appears to need substantially increased cache memory in order to maintain the kind of cache hit rates you'd get under Dos/Windows. One major manufacturer which has Chicago-optimised designs waiting in the wings figures that the size of cache needed for Chicago will actually be one to two megabytes, (two to be on the safe side) and that machines with 512K cache are going to look pretty sick. Microsoft is apparently aware of the problem, but you can see why the subject's a little ticklish - the OS is after all intended to just install onto your existing hardware and magically not break anything. Maybe it's best to think of Chicago as vastly improving the performance of existing machines, but with a little more work on the design of new machines, capable of even more vastly increasing performance. Right? PENTIUM PRICES PLUMMET AS GLUT HITS MARKET Intel's aim this year to ramp up production of the Pentium has resulted in a glut and led to massive price cuts over the last month. At the beginning of July, a 60MHz Pentium cost $675 per unit but on the 1 August its price will be $418, with further cuts expected as Intel attempts to shift stocks. The price of the 60MHz is eventually expected to fall to $400 or perhaps lower as Intel prepares to start a worldwide advertising campaign to promote the use of the processor. Cuts on the 90MHz and the 100MHz are expected too. The 90MHz processor will cost around $600 at the beginning of next year while eventually the 486DX4 is expected to replace the currently popular DX2, according to Intel insiders. The price slashes mean better deals for PC buyers. Gateway 200 and Dell have already started a price war which has resulted in large cuts on their 60MHz systems. Compaq, according to an insider, is attempting to stay aloof from the fray but will inevitably be drawn in. Both Compaq and AST have the advantage that they second source processors, in Compaq's case Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and in AST's case Cyrix chips. This makes Compaq less vulnerable to price war pressure. Meanwhile AMD is expected to introduce 80MHz and 100MHz versions of its 486 chip in early Autumn. Rumours that takeup of the Pentium processor is slack are consistently denied by Intel but the company acknowledges that so far public perception of the chip is low -- hence the huge advertising spend. While the advertising campaign is primarily intended to promote the Pentium processor, Intel is also interested in damaging the credibility of the PowerPC processor as far as possible. INTEL SETS PACE ON MP SYSTEM SPEC Intel is attempting to set the agenda on multiprocessor (MP) specifications for hardware vendors and has revealed MP Spec 1.1. While Compaq officials said last week that they would support the MP spec, one insider said that its own specification had existed since the launch of the first SystemPro. 'We'll support the standard when it is released,' he said. According to Intel, the high cost of supporting multiple versions of different operating systems and platforms means it's uneconomical for MP vendors to make their products widely available using heir own proprietary system designs. The Intel Architecture Labs (IAL) has developed version 1.1 in conjunction with different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and software and BIOS vendors. Intel claims the MP spec will bring the same "shrinkwrap" benefits of the desktop market to the MP market. A system is MP Spec-compliant, according to Intel, when it uses one or more Intel Architecture processors of at least 486 class, including Pentium 735\90 and 815\100 processors, includes an MP Spec compliant BIOS, operating system, and AT, EISA, PCI, VL and MCA buses. Compliance testing is to be performed by operating system vendors and system manufacturers. Compliant systems can have from 2 to 256 processors and the MP Spec, Intel says, is royalty free and doesn't require a licence. (See diagram at end of file, uue-encoded). System manufacturers which have already said they will support the Spec include ALR, AT&T GIS, AST, Collorary, Dell, HP, Intergraph, Micronics, Olivetti and Unisys. BIOS support comes from AMI, Award, Phoenix and System Soft. Meanwhile on the operating system side, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, SCO and SunSoft are partners. However support for SMP on NetWare is not expected to be available before the end of this year. A spokesman for the company said it would be built into NetWare 4.1. The MP spec is available from Intel sales offices and literature centres (in the US 800-548-4725). WHAT'S HOT ON THE USENET COMP.ARCH There's an ongoing discussion about the relative merits SMP and MPP contrasting the merits of Cray versus Pentium based systems. One contributor from NASA said that while the Cray was 'magnificent' when it was first launched, they are not improving at the same rate as micrprocessors. However another contributor from Tandem points out that while that's true on a CPU by CPU basis, Cray now has a low end series which is more cost competitive, with EL systems starting at around $125K. The concensus appears to be that Cray needs to move to MPP or die, with the market so small that most vendors won't support them. A professor at Purdue University says that the peak of CPUs is progressing faster than current memory bandwidth can handle. A contributor from Tandem (again) provides an interesting table which shows the ratios for sustainable memory bandwidth on long vector kernels. ------------------- -------- ----------- Machine Bandwidth Ratio to (MB/s) Cray C90/16 ------------------- -------- ----------- Cray_YMP/C90_16_cpu 105497.4 1.0 Cray C90 series Cray_YMP/C90__8_cpu 55071.9 1.9 Cray_YMP/C90__4_cpu 27610.3 3.8 Cray_YMP/C90__2_cpu 13866.0 7.6 Cray_YMP/C90__1_cpu 6965.4 15.1 Cray_Y/MP_8_cpu 19291.6 5.4 Cray Y/MP Cray_Y/MP_4_cpu 9685.8 10.8 Cray_Y/MP 2426.4 43.4 Cray_T3D_256_PEs 66106.2 1.6 Cray T3D Cray_T3D_128_PEs 32973.0 3.2 Cray_T3D__64_PEs 16520.9 6.4 Cray_T3D__32_PEs 8264.9 12.8 IBM_RS6000-990 663.4 159. IBM RS/6000 IBM_RS6000-590 600.0 176. IBM_RS6000-580 275.9 382. IBM_RS6000-560 228.6 461. IBM_RS6000-950 193.9 544. IBM_RS/6000-250 71.1 1483. IBM_RS/6000-250 58.2 1812. HP_9000/755 68.6 1537. HP 9000 HP_9000/730 53.3 1979. DEC_4000/710 84.6 1247. DEC Alpha DEC_4000/710 80.4 1312. DEC_3000/500 100.4 1050. DEC_3000/300 33.4 3158. SGI_Challenge_150_MHz 58.2 1812. SGI R4000/R4400 SGI_Crimson 61.5 1715. Sun_SparcClassic 57.6 1831. Sun SPARC Sun_SparcCenter_2000 34.4 3066. Sun_SS10/41_1_cpu 48.0 2197. Sun_SS10/30 42.1 2505. ------------------- -------- ----------- COMP.SYS.INTEL A contributor asks whether he should buy a PowerMac 6100AV with a PPC601/60. It's the only PowerMac he can afford, he says, but has noticed that the Dell 90MHz Pentium costs around the same as the 6100AV with cache card. He asks about the performance difference between the machines and poses the question whether PowerMacs are superior as graphics workstations to PCs. A correspondent points out video/sound in, dual monitor support, Ethernet and speech recognitionare bundled with the 6100/66AV compared to the P5/90. He says that the PPC601/66 compares in floating-point performance but not in integer performance. Another correspondent says that the 6100 has plenty of expansion capability using the SCSI and ADB ports. UUEencoded diagram: MPSPEC.GIF Caption: The MP Spec is scalable from DP to MP. --------------------cut here------------------- The Register email: connect@magee.demon.co.uk subscribe: connect@magee.demon.co.uk All rights reserved. The Register is (c) 1994 Situation Publishing.

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