Atari Transputer Workstation

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The Atari Transputer Workstation (also known as ATW-800, or simply ATW) was a workstation class computer released by Atari Corporation in the late 1980s. Based on the INMOS transputer, the machine was considerably more powerful than anything available on the market at the time. Nevertheless, sales were almost non-existent, and the product was canceled after only a few hundred had been produced.

Contents

History

In 1986 Tim King[1] left his job at MetaComCo, along with a few other employees, to start Perihelion Software in England. There they started development of a new parallel-processing operating system known as "HeliOS". At about the same time a colleague started Perihelion (later Perihelion Hardware) to create a new transputer based workstation that would run HeliOS.

While at MetaComCo, much of the Perihelion Software team had worked with both Atari Corp. and Commodore International, producing ST BASIC for the former, and AmigaDOS for the latter. The principals still had contacts with both companies. Commodore had expressed some interest in their new system, and showed demos of it on an add-on card running inside an Amiga 2000. It appears they later lost interest in it. It was at this point that Atari Corp. met with Perihelion and work started on what would eventually become the ATW.

The machine was first introduced at the November 1987 COMDEX under the name Abaq.[2] Two versions were shown at the time; one was a card that connected to the Mega ST bus expansion slot, the second version was a stand-alone tower system containing a miniaturized Mega ST inside.[3] The external card version was dropped at some point during development. It was later learned that the "Abaq" name was in use in Europe, so the product name was changed to ATW800. Perihelion remained the exclusive distributor in England. A first run of prototypes was released in May 1988, followed by a production run in May 1989. In total only 350 machines were produced (depending on the source either 50 or 100 of the total were prototypes).[2]

The team in charge of the ATW's video system, "Blossom", would later work on another Atari project, the Atari Jaguar video game console.

Description

The ATW system consisted of three main parts:

All of these were connected using the transputer's 20 Mbit/s processor links. The motherboard also contained three slots for additional "farm cards" containing four transputers each, meaning that a fully expanded ATW contained 13 transputers. Each ran at 20 MHz (the -20 in the name) which supplied about 10 MIPS each. The bus was also available externally, allowing several ATWs to be connected into one large farm. The motherboard also included a separate slot for one of the INMOS crossbar switches to improve inter-chip networking performance.

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