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  1. Technology
January 25, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

TFB Rair Ltd, part of the Technology For Business group that is now owned by Combined Lease Finance Plc, is following in the footsteps of fellow British micromaker Apricot Computers Plc and moving upmarket with its Black Box III range, launched at the Which Computer? Show in Birmingham last week. The new machines are the result of a near exclusive manufacturing licence agreement between Rair and Counterpoint Computers Inc – now owned by Multitech of Taiwan, and which has to call itself Interpoint in the UK, where it is based in Slough, Berkshire. Rair will assemble and rebadge the 68020-based System 19K multiprocessors at its central London headquarters, providing Counterpoint with its first major distribution outlet in the UK, and extending the Rair range from its previous 80386-based 24 user systems up to a maximum of 128 users. Rair says the new range will offer its network of 60 resellers a low-entry level cost to the larger systems marketplace, offering incremental field upgrades by mixing and matching the various processor types – main processor and up to nine application, terminal, and display processors, all 68020-based – that make up the modular systems. The Counterpoint architecture is claimed to combine the advantages of the shared memory model implemented by the likes of Sequent Computer, and inherent in the design of the Inmos Transputer, and networked processors as applied in Convergent Inc’s Megaframe, by providing a distributed dual-port memory, allowing each processors’ local memory of between 2Mb and 5Mb to be addressed over the system buses – individual processors can directly access all system memory, while the bus traffic processor can directly access all system memory. Bus traffic is reduced as the processors address their own memory most of the time. The C-XIX implementation of Unix distributes the computing load across processors, with the main and applications processors each having their own copy of the kernel. Counterpoint says that in designing what it calls the ultimate OEM and value-added reseller machine, it had to stick to standards, so the Unix System V Interface Definition, Posix, and X/Open compatibility are all supported. Software Software shown at Which Computer? included Uniplex, Q-Office, Unify and Informix, plus Counterpoint’s own icon-based graphical user interface. Prices for a typical entry level system were quoted as ?20,000 for 100Mb disk, 60Mb tape and 3Mb RAM to support 16 users; a 36 user system with an additional 3Mb application processor and two terminal processors would cost ?38,000. Rair would not forecast numbers of expected sales, but said that its existing 30,000 small machine user base alone represented a significant potential business opportunity for upgrading to the new machine. Manufacturing of the Black Box III by Rair is expected to begin in the next two months.

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