Feeds

David May, parallel processing pioneer

We salute the architect of the Transputer

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Inmos: the rise and fall

Barron already had a scheme, hatched in conjunction with IT entrepreneur Richard Petritz and chip designer Paul Schroeder, both from the US. Together they ended up with £50m funding for an almost insanely bold new venture Barron sold to the government as a job-creation programme, the seed for a modern UK electronics industry and a bridge to the US market.

Inmos was born in 1978 with a five-year plan: spend that time - and a lot of money - developing and bringing to market a dedicated parallel processing chip, the Transputer, guided by May. But the company would start making money almost immediately by selling memory from its SRAM and, soon, DRAM factory established in Colorado Springs.

Transputer brochure

Promoting the Transputer: an Inmos brochure from 1986
Source: Dean Allum/Inmos.com

"The theory was that the static and dynamic Ram chips would be a very quick entry into the market," says May. "We had top-class Ram designers stolen out of Mostek. The memory story was right. If you can make a cheaper, faster products with the same interface as the competition the customers will buy from you. But the microprocessor has all the opposite dynamics. It takes a long time to design, a long time to establish, but once it's established the customer's locked in."

The multilingual - human and computing - polymath B Lee Jones remembers working as a systems programmer for the Colorado Springs facility. Jones gave the first US presentation of the Occam parallel programming language - May's EPL successor - to a DEC Symposium in 1981.

"David, Tony Hoare and the gang changed the whole computing paradigm," he says. "But it was too early, because a lot of people didn't get it."

Occam

Occam source code
Source: Dr Daniel Hyde

His fellow workers at Colorado Springs certainly didn't understand what the Brits were up to. "There was this focus on getting from the 16K SRams to 64K DRams. Yeah, Occam and the transputer, OK, that's interesting... But we're in the Ram business."

And then the Colorado Springs memory cash cow created to feed the Transputer's long-term development, dried up when the Japanese started dumping 64K Drams on the US market in the early 1980s. Rival memory manufacturer and neighbour Mostek was the first to be hit. "I had a nice corner office overlooking the Mostek parking lot," says Jones. "I came in one Monday morning and there were no cars there. They'd shut down Mostek over the weekend."

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Microsoft confirms secret Surface will never see the light of day
Microsoft's form 8-K records decision 'not to ship a new form factor'
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.