riscy
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What do we *really* want ?

To: riscy@pyramid.com
Subject: What do we *really* want ?
From: Andreas Busse <andy@resi.waldorf-gmbh.de>
Date: Fri, 2 Jul 93 14:00:09 +0200
Dear Mipsers !

First, this is nothing personally. Second, I do believe
that everything we have discussed here was substantial,
and technically important.

But: I think it's time to lay back, cool down and think
about WHAT DO WE REALLY WANT ?

Remember, the whole thing started as an ISA card with
CPU, some RAM and a way to use the rest of a PC as
I/O subsystem, right ?

Now we're on the way to build a complete workstation
with lots of features, on-board intelligent video, scsi,
ethernet, serial, sound and whatever.
That all sounds good, but I doubt that all this is really necessary.

All I want is that we don't come into that well-known
techno-junk-two-week-loop-and-never-ending-story.
Probably you'll know this:

Kill the engineer to finish the design !

Unfortunally, we are about 30 engineers...
I don't like to kill anyone and certainly not 30 people !

So please let us start from the beginning.

Things we *do* need and things we *might* need:

* A CPU. This is a *must* :-). Should be a 3051E, better 3081E. 
  They are pin compatible, so the choice is no problem at all.
  If the R4K2 is in fact that cheap: YES ! We should use it.

* Ram. The more, the better. Someone suggested to use
  those 36bit by 512k or 2M modules. That saves boardspace,
  right, but they are nearly twice that expensive than four of
  the good old x9 modules.
  I would say, 64 Meg on board is *definitly* enough.

* Keyboard controller. This is a *must*.

* Serial I/O. For starting the Linux port, we will need
  two ports; one for a dumb ascii terminal, one for downloading
  code.
  Two ports are still sufficient for a workstation:
  One for the mouse, the other one for the modem.
  A third port is an *option*. It could be used for a printer
  in case we don't have a parallel port.

* Parallel port. This is also an *option*. It might be
  cheaper than a third serial line. Take a LS374 and one GAL
  and the printer port is ready.

* SCSI. This is a *must*.
  I can't imagine a workstation without SCSI...

* IDE. This is an *option*.
  We do not really need it, although it would make the
  complete machine cheaper.

* Ethernet. This is a *must*. We can't call the thing
  "workstation" if it doesn't have an ethernet port.

* Real time clock. This is a *must* too.

* Video on board. Don't laugh, but this is an *option*.

* Color graphics on board. I'd say, this is even more an *option*.

* Intelligent video on board. This is definitly an *option*.

* Sound I/O. This is an *option*.

* ISA Bus... I would say: we *do* need exactly one slot.
  Every slot more is an *option*. Why ?

Ok, my idea is the following: We design the complete
machine, preferably without any video stuff. I could imagine
that we provide a simple dma channel for monochrome video
with a resolution and timing which a standard VGA monitor
can handle. But even this is not really necessary.
And we provide exactly one ISA slot for an off-the-shelf
VGA card. No provisions for dma, bus master stuff, no
8/16 bit detection and all that. That ISA slot must provide
all signals necessary for controlling a VGA card and
nothing else.

This way we don't have the trouble to write our own
X11-driver nor do we have the trouble with timings which
most monitors can handle but exactly the one *you* have not.

Yes, I know, it would be slower. The ray tracing guy
(sorry, I've forgotten your name) will kill me, but:
Please, go ahead and buy a SGI Indigo. We will never ever
reach the graphic performance of such a machine, not
with a 75MHz R4400 and not with tons of off-the-shelf
pseudo-intelligent video-controller stuff.

A nice story about mips's and "intelligent" video:
When Mips Inc. introduced the Magnum 4000 workstation
last year (I have one of these rare things), they
thought about using a SPEA video card with an i860
on-board. After some benchmarking with this and some
dumb cards they have thrown out the i860. Letting the
R4000 doing video itself was faster than telling the
i860 what it should do. Believe it or not...

I'll summarize:

* 40 MHz 3051E/3081E, perhaps R4K2.
* 16 standard SIMM slots for memory sizes
  from 8 Meg (with 1Mx9 modules) to 64 Meg (4Mx9 modules).
* 2 serial ports.
* One parallel port or one extra serial port.
* SCSI controller
* Ethernet controller
* Keyboard controller
* Realtime clock
* No video, monochrome video if people mind.
* One ISA slot for a VGA card of your choice.
STOP. Nothing else.

You're missing something ? Well, you still have
your old Intel box. Get a coax cable and connect
it with your new Mips box !

Hmm. I'm looking forward for your bombs :-)

Bye,
Andy

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