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Re: What do we *really* want ?

To: andy@resi.waldorf-gmbh.de (Andreas Busse)
Subject: Re: What do we *really* want ?
From: Stephen S M Wong <a080700@hp750a.csc.cuhk.hk>
Date: Sat, 3 Jul 93 10:09:47 HKT
Cc: riscy@pyramid.com
In-reply-to: <9307021200.AA05148@resi.waldorf-gmbh.de>; from "Andreas Busse" at Jul 2, 93 2:00 pm
Mailer: Elm [revision: 70.30]
Hi Risciers,

>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.

Okay 3081E should be a good enough chip for me, and R4.2K is
even better, but have to wait.

>* 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.

I want no more than 32MB at the moment, but who knows what the
typical setting 1/2 year (or 1 year) latter!

>* Keyboard controller. This is a *must*.

It should be easy to use 8041/8051 AT compatible keyboard, use it.

>* 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.

But I prefer a parallel port to a third serial port.

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

Why?  (Refer to IDE part)

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

I can't understand why SCSI is preferred to IDE, at least not very
definitely!  I know that one can connect a lot of different stuffs
on the SCSI bus, but other than hard disk and tape drive, what are
the items that will be of interest to majority people (or customers)?
I'm now owning a total of 500MB IDE hard disk space, and I will be
very happy if I can use it on the MIPS system.

Personally, I don't object to on-board SCSI, but just would like
to be fair, why SCSI is a must, but IDE is an option.  For the same
analogy to dumb frame buffer, SCSI hard disk does NOT necessary
outperform IDE one, the intelligence of SCSI may not be justifiable,
the bottle neck may be on the spinning speed of the disk, and nothing
to do with interface.  Moreover, someone told me that there would be
1GB IDE hard disk for sale recently, and this fact will once again
lead us to rethink whether IDE is a cheaper (and still usable)

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

You haven't mention whether your Ethernet is on-board or not.  If you
say Ethernet is a must for a workstation, I agree.  But I can't find
a reason why Ethernet has to be on board, I prefer Ethernet to be on
external I/O bus.

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

Okay, if we can find a RTC chip with some NVRAM, it will be fine to
have it.

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

I agree, but I think the majority of people (or customers) would attach
a display monitor to the system (rather than using a terminal), and
since we agree to stick a keyboard controller on board, it will be more
complete to have some preliminary video stuff on board.

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

What?  You like monochrome video, what's the cost difference in
implementing color vs monochrom?  Will it be actually harder to find
parts to do monochrom nowadays?

>* Intelligent video on board. This is definitly an *option*.
>* Sound I/O. This is an *option*.

Okay, it's a nice to have option.

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

If we agree to do ISA bus, than a lot of the above will become
options.  But if ISA cards are noway in the new system, than I
think a lot of people (at least me) will 2nd thought before
commiting a few hundred US$ to buy a board, since I have to
make it very sure what I want is all on board!  ISA bus is part
of success factors in PC and so did slots in Apple ][.  The
wealth of different expansion cards is an essential buffer to
let different customers to tailor the system to fit their
needs.  And I think this rule still holds at the moment.

>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.

I doubt, since the architecture difference between Intel and MIPS
processors is significant, and we'll likely to deal with an I/O
processor (3041?) or 3730, the X11 driver may have to be rewrite,
although not wholely, anyway.

v Stephen Wong Siu-ming    v internet: stephenwong@cuhk.hk  v
^ Computer Services Center ^ bitnet  : a080700@cucsc.bitnet ^
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