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Re: Current status

To: riscy@pyramid.com
Subject: Re: Current status
From: Andreas Busse <andy@resi.waldorf-gmbh.de>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 93 10:50:30 +0200
Reply-to: riscy@pyramid.com
Sender: owner-riscy@pyramid.com
> Neil Russell awakens from a long day dream, and says:

Hope it was nice, Neil :-)

> We may have arived at a point that we cannot continue from.  We have
> four possible solutions to the peripheral controller problem.  It should
> be noted (if its not already obvious) that without the peripheral
> controller the whole project is pointless.

> 1)  Use a IDT 79R3730.  This is the simplest and most attractive solution.
>    The 3730 provides all of the right things, with the possible exception
>    of video display support, which we have a solution for provided by
>    Steve Ligett.  However, IDT are not forth comming on this part.  I am
>    getting reluctance from the salesman at IDT in Santa Clara, and
>    Andy Busse has had similar problems trying to get information though
>    IDT in Germany.  In fact, Andy has been told that if we want a design
>    now, don't use the 3730.  Quite frankly, I don't have the confidence
>    in IDT to use it.  So this option is out.

Neil is right here. A field engineer at IDT Germany told me that we
should not wait for the 3730. Although IDT is currently testing samples
they will *not* provide more informations, handbooks and parts as
long the design isn't *completely* finished. This may take a while...

> 2)  Use the MotherChip-set from Visual.  Their chips will be available
>     in a few weeks, and for a good price.  However, while they solve
>     the video problem quite nicely, there have no real support for
>     DMA, which makes SCSI and Ethernet difficult.  As for providing
>     extra logic to suplement their short commings, it would be a
>     daunting task to do anything that would provide an efficient for
>     software solution.  In fact, we may implement a good portion of
>     a peripheral controller in doing so, thus making the MOM chips
>     less useful.

I doubt that the MOM* chips are a good choice. They are intended
to be used in a x-terminal and therefore do not really support more I/O
than ethernet, video and serial for mouse and keyboard. 

> 3)  Use Ligett and Callen approach and do a DRAM controller in simple
>     logic and use another CPU (a 3041 in their case) to do the I/O
>     support.  This would certainly provide the efficiency for
>     software that is needed, but the complexity and the fact that
>     a good DRAM controller is hard, especially for the 30x1, may make
>     this too complicated.

This solution might work with a lot of effort and trouble. Although
some things would be done in software, we would still need a lot
of glue between the CPU's, for the DRAM controller and for video.

> 4)  Implement a 3730 like thing in readily available logic.  We could
>     use a load of PALs and various logic, or maybe one or two FPGA's.
>     Alternatively, we could have a semi-custom chip made.  I'm told that
>     this may be cheap enough to consider.  Prices for semi-custom are
>     based mostly on the pin count of the package used.  I'm still
>     investigating this one, so I could be mis-informing you here.

Using a lot of PALs might work and wouldn't cost that much. FPGA's
are perhaps too slow or too expensive. Using semi-custom chips is
so far I know *extremely* expensive in the design phase but then
cheaper than everything else. Neil is perhaps not thinking about
a real ASIC. I'll give you an idea: We (Waldorf) is currently
planning an ASIC with approx. 100K gates (7x10 mm die).
Design costs: us$120,000. Part costs: us$30. Of course, we wouldn't
need 100k gates, but I'm sure it will be still too expensive.

5)  Wait 6 months and begin again.  By this time, the 3730 should be
    out along with some possible R4000 solutions.  I have heard that
    R4200's may be available for as little as us$200 (quantity unknown).
    However, we may well have the same peripheral controller problems.

This may be in fact the best thing we could do. The Orion/R4400 chips
will become cheap, support chips are announced yet.

> While typing this, I had the thought that we could combine solutions
> (2) and (3).  So, the main CPU would have a MOM3000i (and maybe a
> MOM3000d) and so would handle all the video.  A single DMA interface
> from the 3041 would be implemented with assistance from the MOM3000i.
> All of the remaining peripherals are connected to the 3041 using its
> bus sizing stuff.  DMA is implemented using software loops in the 3041.

This a way worth to discuss if we don't want to wait for a R4x00

> [ prices deleted ]

> We then add to that the prices that we have already established for
> the SCSI, Ethernet, Serial, PCB, CPU, etc, and you have it.
> As for the software in the 3041, it would be a seriously real-time
> collection of interrupt driven loops, using registers and some SRAM
> for buffering, with most of the data going directly to the main memory.
> I do not see this would be a major problem.



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