Genrad FutureData

From: John Oldenkamp <>
Date: Tue Sep 9 14:43:47 2003


Don't know if you are still interested in info about the GenRad Futuredata
2300 but I spent a long time in front of one and still have access to it for
(very) occasional support.

We bought it in 1980 and used it to develop a MagCard debit system based on
the 8085. Used it for 6 years before transitioning to a PC environment.


Extremely slick. RDOS II was spectacular for what it was intended for.
Assembly, linking and loading always went without a hitch. Ours had a
whopping 48K, 2 x 128K 8" Shugart drives and all the emulator stuff. You
could buy memory to take it past 48K but it only gave you a few more K since
RDOS II had to live in the upper memory. We did not use the emu too much as
we had a resident monitor that was specifically tailored to debugging what
we had to do. I did incorporate a PAL into a new design and when I
discovered that all the PAL cross-compiler stuff ran on PDPs and other
expensive machines that I did not have access to, wrote a PAL cross compiler
that ran under RDOS II that drove a ProLog blaster to get us through. This
was in 1981. All in all, a fantastic system. Even with the PC onslaught,
it took a 486/33 with a HDD to finally beat the assembly/link speeds of that
sorry, floppy-based FutureData unit.

I returned to school after all this to complete the degree in computer
science and was appalled at the sorry algorithms presented in the lower
division. The FutureData used full track buffering, double hashing and more
to make the most of limited hardware resources. Different than the current
crop of VBASIC hacks. *sigh*

As an aside. Back in those days, Intel, National and others sold their chips
with the development systems (Intellec, StarLink etc.l) like a hook. Once
you had put $20K into the development system (sometimes rack mounted!) they
figured they could hose you on their single board computers etc. at whatever
cost. With the GenRad, we could listen to them say how much more expensive
it would be to move to the next board and then watch them crater when we
told them that for less than $1K we could completely re-tool our development
hardware and .. would have! Heady times, for sure.

Received on Tue Sep 09 2003 - 14:43:47 BST

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