THE DEBUT OF THE ABAQ, A REVOLUTIONARY COMPUTER by Gerardo Greco
At Fall Comdex '87, Atari was demonstrating a new addition
to its growing computer product line. Called ABAQ, the new
computer is based on the revolutionary Transputer chip. ABAQ is
the first parallel processing, high performance, personal
workstation of its kind and, attached to it, the ST or MEGA acts
as the input-output device for the system.
"The ABAQ, which is the root word for abacus, is a micro
version of a supercomputer."
The displays will move desktop publishing into another realm.
The solid and wire frame modelling graphics capabilities will
bring 3-D CAD rendering and rotation up to levels that previously
desktop computers could not have performed. The better than
broadcast quality resolution will allow nearly photographic
quality graphics. This feature alone will have a tremendous
impact on the film, television and video industries ability to
computer generate special effects.
The screen resolutions available for ABAQ are very impor-
tant. All screen resolutions are 60 Hz, portrait quality. The
highest mode is 1280 X 960 (4 bit/pixel) with 16 colours or
monochrome. This resolution is excellent for engineering dra-
wings, desktop publishing, and film, television or video special
effects work. The second resolution is 1024 X 786 (8 bits/pixel)
with 256 colours. This resolution will be beneficial in any CAD,
colour picture or graphic work and is compatible with the
optional 8514/A graphic mode of the IBM PS/2 50-80. The 640 X 480
(8 bits/pixel/2 screen) resolution is perfect for animation work.
The lowest resolution is 512 X 480 (32 bits/pixel 24 bits/true
colour plus overlay & tag bits) with 16 millions colours. This
resolution may be utilized for finely shaded pictures.
Additional ABAQ advantages include the ability to create a
processor farm of upwards of 1000 processors, SCSI drive support,
and a floating point processor built into the transputer chip.
The ABAQ uses the Inmos T-800, a high performance 32-bit
microprocessor capable of operating at 10 to 12 million instruc-
tions per second (MIPS). The built in floating point processor in
itself is a great advantage. ABAQ offers calculating speeds a
single processor can't, with 1.5 millions floating operations per
second (MFLOPS). The effect of these calculating speeds on any
number of applications will be enormous.
ABAQ has four megabytes of RAM for the system plus one
megabyte of RAM for the display; it provides for the addition of
up to three internal expansion cards. These cards may include up
to 64 megabytes of addressable DRAM, or different graphics cards
for speciality applications. The three add-on cards may be
configured as 12 + 1 transputers with 4 T-800 processors per
card, which would provide 130 MIPS or about 20 Mflops in a
desktop package. The full bus and appropriate links are avai-
lable. It also provides connections to parallel processor farms
and links to fast peripherals such as a laser printer.
The software was developed by Tim King of Perihelion Software,
former software writer for Metacomco and author of the Amiga-DOS.
The user interfaces include X-Windows (vers.11), GEM-VDIdriver,
GEM under Windows and Shell. ABAQ utilizes a high performance
transputer microprocessor with a reduced instruction set, capable
of delivering computer power in excess of ten times a PC/AT. It
is the most powerful single chip computer in the world. A third
party software developer is already working on an MS-DOS emulator
that will run under Helios, according to Atari. Because of the
ABAQ's speed, MS-DOS programs will run faster than they would on
an AT or AT compatible.
Although the ABAQ transputer chip has a reduced instruction
set, its instruction set goes beyond the traditional RISC
(Reduced Instruction Set Computer). The ABAQ transputer chip
consist of a small core instruction set surrounded by collections
of application specific instructions. Perhaps its key feature is
the ability of the transputer to allow 100 or more transputers to
connect together to provide a low-cost desktop computer with the
power of a supercomputer.
With the advent of powerful 32-bit microrocessors, and
advances in graphics hardware, a new generation of affordable
powerful personal workstations has become possible. The system
will, it is predicted, provide an order of magnitude better
price/performance than any personal computer currently being
Using the transputer as the heart of ABAQ not only allows
the production of a cost-effective advanced personal workstation,
it also provide the ability to be able to plug in more power as
needed. Such systems set new standard in computing, providing
solutions that previously required expensive mainframes, all on
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.