Building a better "old" computer

From: allisonp <>
Date: Sun Jun 25 10:39:48 2000

>Actually last time I checked, you could only *order* that machine, not
>buy one, as they didn't/don't exist yet (still debugging the prototype).
>And it's not an IMSAI 8080 by a long shot, it's a completely different
>machine stuck in a familiar-looking box. So it doesn't address the
>original poster's point of building a better-than-1979 machine using
>1979 components.


>- Backplane busses could have been done a lot more carefully, e.g.
> differential signal pairs, or at the very least O.C. with terminators
> at both ends (worked well for the Unibus).

Actually the S100 was cleaned up a bit and would run nicely at 8mb/s
for split or 16mb/s for unified word mode.

But multibus and STDbus were already better standards.

>- Doing fancy timing (e.g. RAS-CAS) using RC delays, one-shots, analog
> lines, lots of gates in series etc. was a Bad Idea. Using a few
> clocked by a fast xtal clock might require an extra chip or two, but
> you get it working it will keep on working.

The better boards did that, alone with 4layer etch. Dram and two layers
was at best problematic.

>- SCSI-1/SCSI-2, IDE, and probably other supposedly "modern" interfaces
> could have been done with 1979 parts. At the time, the expense of
> each peripheral its own CPU (or microcontroller at least) would have
> prohibitive, but if money were no object it would have been nice to
> some more open standards catch on, since the market was pretty
> for no good reason. Floppies were absolute hell in this regard too.

Typical system with a HD in the 79-81 timeframe liekly had two CPUs
one for the HD alone! Teletek, Konan for example. There wer floppy
cards with local cpu too to further unburden the main cpu.

>- Things might have been more stable if microcomputers had separated the
> ideas of "CPU bus" and "peripheral bus" earlier on. For the longest
> the peripheral bus was always just a buffered version of the CPU bus,

depends on the bus std. Multibus and STDbus for example.

> which led to lots of timing problems and incompatibilities when you
> changed to a different or faster CPU. But having something that's
> to interface and has simple timing, like what the ISA bus became
> having the same problem for a while), would have been a good thing, as

ISA was multibus with broken interrupts and no bus ack handshake, same
timing and interface otherwise. More interesting formfactor though.

Received on Sun Jun 25 2000 - 10:39:48 BST

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