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Re: Mips project Go or Wait?

To: riscy@pyramid.com
Subject: Re: Mips project Go or Wait?
From: Bill Broadley <broadley@neurocog.lrdc.pitt.edu>
Date: Wed, 4 Aug 1993 18:08:43 -0500 (EDT)
In-reply-to: <9308041836.AA11141@rei.com> from "6692" at Aug 4, 93 01:36:25 pm
Reply-to: riscy@pyramid.com
Sender: owner-riscy@pyramid.com
>> ... good to try to predict how long it will take to design the board and
>> its operating system, and to try to predict what the cost of the components
>> will be at that time, and design on the basis of that.  I realize that this
>> approach is full of risks, and would be difficult to do, but I am afraid that
>> if this approach is not taken, the board my be obsolete by the time it is
>> usable.

Well current state of the art in the pc world is a 486/66 (32.4 specint 16.1 fp)
In six months the 66 Mhz pentium will be state of the art (64.5 specint 56.9 fp)
and a good motherboard like micronices VESA is over $1000 with a 486 66 in it.
Last year a 486/50 ISA was over $1000.  Don't forget that the 486 motherboard 
doesn't have video, ethernet or scsi.

So if we can get the 4200 (55int/30 fp) 4000 (62int/63fp) going it seems
that even in 6 months we would be competitive if it's under $1000.
If we use the arc 100 chipset we have nothing to design, all we 
have to do is order the parts, and contract out the design of the motherboards.
Oh yeah and port linux ;-)

> Hear, Hear!  Not to be a wet blanket, but it might also be enlightening
> to try to predict what the cost of competitive products will be at that
> time.  I understand that DEC Alphas are already available for ~US$5K,
> at least to selected WindowsNT developers.  And that's complete, with
> memory, tube, keyboard, mouse, disk, and CD-ROM drive.

Well I don't expect anyone to sell 486 motherboard ugprade over the next
6 months because of problems with software/integrations/hardware compatibility.
Complete systems will compete with complete pentium/486 systems, but I don't
expect any direct competition with 486 motherboards.

> How much do you think this Taiwanese machine will be selling for by
> the time our board is able to boot Linux?  

ACER isn't selling mothebroards, and ACER needs to make a profit, and
ACER's machine won't run linux.  

> Particularly when the
> prediction of that time has to be adjusted for time spent bickering
> about fundamental design decisions, like 'dumb frame buffer vs. VESA
> local bus connector' and 'IDT R3051 vs. IDT R3081 vs. NEC VR4000PC
> vs. NEC VR4200' and 'complete complement of I/O on board vs. ISA
> expansion bus'.

Well hopefully everyone will agree the arc 100 design is better and we
will have to do NO design, just use the NEC design. 

> I was really disappointed when the IDT 3730 didn't materialize.  I
> think that probably set the timetable back _several_ months.  And it

Well the arc 100/150 look even better. (MCT-ADR MCT-DP)

> possible that the PowerPC will really take off and the VR4200, even
> the whole MIPS 4000 line, will be abandoned because there's no
> market.

Well I personally prefer the powerpc.  It run's gcc, gets more done per Mhz,
very elegant, reasonably priced, and has the largest onchip cache.  But the 
simple fact that there exists a mips 4000 board design outweighs any 
advantages the powerpc has over the mips 4000 series.  Unless we find
a ready to use powerpc motherboard design of course.

I'd really doubt the mips chips will have any problems, they are faster
then the pentium, run windows nt, and have SGI/MIPS and various pc companies
supporting them.

> At the risk of repeating myself, let me say again that I don't think
> that this project will lead to a state-of-the-art workstation at a
> bargain price.  We just can't compete with the large-volume
> manufacturers.  But I still think it's worth doing, and I still
> think there's a (small) chance there could eventually be many
> thousands, even tens of thousands of the things built over the next
> several years.

Well the 486 is an ugly architecture, and is slow especially in fp.  (not
to mention I'd bet that the 486 specmarks are more optimized then anyone elses.)
If I can get better price/performance on a riscy motherboard with everything
on board, then I can get with a 486 motherboard+video+scsi I'll buy it.

[ deleted long speculation on the number of free unix users and extrapolating
market for the riscy board]

There are no doubt that there are MANY free unix users, but MANY of those
are running with <= 4 MB ram, <= 386-33, IDE disks, tident or tseng video
cards, etc.

Most free unix users are college age or so, and don't have the better part
of $1000 to upgrade there system that doesn't run winNT or dos software.

But I hate the 486/586 design, and microsoft software, and hope to
get a riscy motherboard to run linux.  So I can have a workstation at home.

Bill                                    1st>    Broadley@neurocog.lrdc.pitt.edu
Broadley@schneider3.lrdc.pitt.edu <2nd  3rd>                 Broadley+@pitt.edu
Linux is great.         Bike to live, live to bike.                      PGP-ok

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