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COMPEC RE-ESTABLISHES CREDIBILITY WITH EXHIBITORS AND SERIOUS USERS

Compec appears well on the road to regaining its position as one of the more important computer events of the year. This year’s show, at Olympia until Friday, is rather more focussed than its immediate predecessors with the emphasis on the quality rather than quantity of visitors. Even on the first day, exhibitors were promising to return next year, perhaps bringing other companies within their group with them. GEC Datacomms Ltd, now a subsidiary rather than a division of GEC Telecommunications, said that Micro Scope Plc and other GEC Plc subsidiaries were already regretting not taking space this year. The emphasis at Compec is on Transputers, data communications and printers. Transputer developer Inmos International is claiming that around 50 Transputer-based systems have come to market, with 200 committed design wins in the pipeline. It used Compec to highlight four of its customers – including consultants Topexpress of Cambridge, and White Cross Systems, which is currently completing an installation for City stockbrokers SBCI Savory Milln at its London Bridge headquarters. There, 20 IBM PS/2s have been connected to a central database search engine using an array of 26 Transputers in parallel to search a 2Gb hard disk. The customised enquiry system will cope with up to 1,500 bargains struck by traders, each generating a mass of backroom paperwork. Another Inmos customer, newly formed Niche Technology Ltd of Bristol, is offering its NT1000 Advanced Computing Platform, a board that fits into a Sun 3 or Sun 4 workstation host, runs under Unix, and provides multi- and parallel processing capabilities with power of up to 320 MIPS or 48 MFLOPS per board; up to eight boards can be fitted into a Sun chassis. The products will be launched in February, and Niche says its next target machine will be the DEC MicroVAX. Kode Computers, part of Kode International Plc, is showing a new 80386-based 32 user machine running under Digital Research’s Concurrent DOS, and a new 64-user box under Pick, Unix and MS-DOS. The former, the K-Frame, is home-made, the latter, the Icon, comes from the Sanyo affiliate Icon International Inc. K-Frame starts at UKP14,750, the Icon, which may shortly be able to run BOS as well, at UKP31,000. Chertsey-based Longs Computers Products Ltd is showing new 16 user Unix systems from Falco Dataproducts Inc. The Falco 5012 is powered by a 12MHz 80286, the Falco 5020 by a 20MHz 80386. By and large, stand-alone computers are few and far between. Two exceptions are new ranges from NEC and Monroe Systems For Business. NEC has brought out its top of the range PowerMate 386 machine featuring a switchable 8/16MHz 80386 Intel processor, and up to 10Mb of RAM. The 386 is available in three models; the APC-H6010 with 5.25 disk drive and 40Mb 40mS Winchester disk drive; the APC-H6020 with 5.25 disk drive and 66Mb, 23mS Winchester drive and finally the APC-H6030 with 5.25 with integral 130Mb, 23mS ESDI-type Winchester drive. In addition, the show sees the UK launch of NEC’s PowerMate Portable with 80286 or 80386 processors. As with the PowerMate, three models have been introduced. At the bottom end is the APC-H7000, configured with 3.5 disk drive, followed by the APC-H7010 with similar drive and 20Mb, 40mS Winchester disk. And topping off the new range is the APC-H7020 with 3.5 drive and 40Mb, 40mS Winchester. Although no UK prices are available, the portable made its entry on to the US market at Comdex/Fall with a price tag of $3,995 for the 20Mb version. NEC reckons the main selling point is the three year warranty being offered on both new product lines; something, it claims, close competitors wouldn’t dare do. Meanwhile, besuited Compec-goers were treated to the dubious delights of Marilyn Monroe doing her bit at the launch of Monroe Systems For Business UK. Accompanying the wholly-owned subsidiary on to the UK market are its two new PCs, the Monroe 3 286 and 3-386. Both PCs, produced under licence by an unnamed company, run under MS-DOS 3.2x and are IBM AT compatible. The 3 286 is a 16-bit machine with speed sof 8 an

d 10MHz featuring 512K or RAM expandable to 1Mb or 16Mb with hardware support. It supports two 5.25 20Mb half-height Winchester drives, each expandable to over 100Mb. The 32-bit 3-386 runs at 16MHz and comprises two 5.25 half-height 1.2Mb or 360K floppy disk drives. Both support a variety of expansion cards. A Monroe 3-286 with 512Kb RAM, CGA/Hercules video card, paper white monitor, one 1.2Mb floppy disk drive and one 20Mb hard disk drive will retail at around UKP1,875 plus VAT. Its sister carries a tag of UKP2,950 for 2Mb of RAM, CGA/Hercules video card, paper white monitor, one 1.2Mb floppy drive and one 40Mb hard disk drive. Monroe will be setting up its UK subsidiary in Guildford, Surrey. Below the PCs, in size if not always in cost, are the handheld portables. Husky Computers has an enhanced version of its ruggedised Hunter. Hunter II features a backlit supertwist LCD screen with the same 8 lines as before but with larger characters. Interesting software includes Micro Focus Plc’s new Cobol/2 software development kit (CI No 813). The kit includes XM for addressing up to 16Mb RAM and costs UKP1150. ICL house Gandlake Computer Services, a neighbour of Micro Focus in Newbury, Berkshire, is showing Factotum, a multi-user MS-DOS software package containing word processing, address book, invoicing and accounts, time scheduling, and database amonst other things. At UKP1.5m a year and 17 staff, Gandlake is almost exactly the same size as Network Designers Ltd. The ICL and IBM SNA 3270 networking company from the idyllic-sounding Kingston Bagpuize in Oxfordshire chose the show’s first morning to announce its independence from former owner Telecomputing Plc. Terms of the management buyout have not yet been disclosed. Network Designers also has a new network for connecting MS-DOS micros to proprietary ICL Oslan networks. Tangolan costs UKP995 including a communications controller and data transfer facilities. The company is also readying interfaces for connecting Oslan and PC networks to IBM and ICL mainframes via X25 for the first quarter next year. British Telecom is showing new T-Net 1000 local area network products including a prototype Wide Area Network Bridge that supports either X21 or X25 protocols to link T-1000 networks. The major demonstration at the show is the EurOSInet multi-vendor X400 show which, as one of the participants put it, works most of the time for most of the people. Dowty Information Systems Plc has a new board from Gamma Technology Inc which allows PCs to send and receive faxes. Microfax costs UKP995, although users wanted to edit incoming faxes will need some software which Canon currently sells for around UKP500. Dowty also has its TrailBlazer high speed modems, which during the time it took to type this piece, received a fair amount of interest from visitors. The Compec show is back on the road, although a few more visitors would not come amiss: it’s 10am-6pm today, 10-4.30 tomorrow.

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CBR Staff Writer

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