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Technology / AI and automation


AT&T Microelectronics has announced its Hobbit microprocessor (CI No 1,862) for so-called personal communicators – devices that can combine voice messaging, electronic mail, facsimile and modem functions. The first Hobbit-based products are expected by the end of the year – courtesy of Mountain View, California-based Eo Inc, said to be using the Hobbit in a new portable phone and personal computer hybrid (CI No 2,016). Eo will say only that its new gadgets will be aimed at business users in vertical markets and that it is working with resellers to develop applications. The 20MHz 32-bit ATT92010 Hobbit, developed at AT&T’s Bell Labs, combines both complex and RISC design approaches. It can produce the highly compact code of a complex instruction set microrpocessor, critical in portable applications where memory space is at a premium, but like RISC designs, it supports single cycle instruction exectution and, hence, high performance. It delivers 37 VAX MIPS – one MIPS is equivalent to an VAX-11/780 – which the company claims is five times that of Intel’s 80486, 30 times faster than the 80386SL.

Fast context switching

Its design enables fast context switching and interrupt response so that the chip can switch quickly between various tasks such as: doc-ument editing, receiving incoming mail and sending a fax. It comes as part of a five-chip set, the ATT92000, which requires at 3.3V, rather than the standard 5V for low power consumption. The four peripheral chips are the AT92011 system management controller that provides system-level control and power-management facilities; the ATT92012 PCMCIA controller that provides access to memory and input-output devices; the ATT92013 peripheral controller that provides an interface between the processer’s local bus and a subset of the AT bus; and the 92014 video display controller that supports liquid crystal and cathode ray tube displays. It is available now and costs between $100 and $150 per unit in volumes of 100,000. AT&T Microelectronics has formed a business unit, Personal Communications Systems in California, to provide support and development tools for OEM customers wanting to use the Hobbit in new products. It is keen to work with other companies and has collaborated on projects with Mitsubishi Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co, Mitsui Co, Siemens AG, NEC Corp and Go Corp. Go’s PenPoint operating system, which supports the Hobbit, is designed for pen-based input and communications devices, supports the Hobbit (CI No 1,960). It provides a consistent user interface, which AT&T claims will make Hobbit devices as easy to use as a standard telephone. AT&T reckons that by the year 2000 there will be a 1,000m potential personal communicator users – sounds like it plans a big push in China. It expects the devices could also incorporate graphics and full motion video in the future.

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CBR Staff Writer

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