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Technology / AI and automation


With funds for independent research becoming progressively more difficult to obtain in the UK as the government puts the bite on college budgets, Universities, Polytechnics and other organisations are having to find new ways of obtaining finance. Instead of sitting about and moaning, the people of Newcastle have come up with an imaginative solution. The route chosen by the Newcastle – upon – Tyne -based Microelectronics Applications Research Institute, founded in 1979 by the Tyne and Wear County Council, in conjunction with Newcastle University, Newcastle Poly and CAP Group Plc, is to set up manufacturing, commercial research and high technology training companies limited by guarantee with the intention of ploughing any profits from the operations back into research. MARI is of course famous for its Newcastle Connection, the transparent file transfer facility for heterogeneous networks of Unix systems that was developed at Newcastle University and was all the rage until Sun Microsystems stole the market with its Network File System. Following the launch of a 68020-Unix supermicro back in January (CI No 608), MARI Advanced Systems Ltd, the manufacturing arm, introduced an IBM Personalike on Friday. The Tyneware System 5 features an 8086 processor – with an 8087 co-processor option – 640Kb RAM, one 360Kb 5.25 half-height floppy drive, a 20Mb hard disk, serial and parallel ports, and five full-sized expansion slots. It will be sold by a recently-recruited sales force at prices from UKP1,150. MARI has also launched Admis, a light beam device that works with the System 5 to count people entering a building. Already, it has been installed by Newcastle University library and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London – places that need to know how many people come in to justify their existence according to MARI’s public relations officer Fiona Falkingham. Despite the V&A sale, MARI is concentrating its marketing efforts in the North-East for the time being, but with 200 staff mostly in research, up from 80 in 1985, to support it is looking to go national later in the year. Much of MARI’s research work is currently concentrated on one Esprit – the EEC initiative – and two Alvey projects. The Esprit project concerns tactile sensors for robotic systems while the Alvey undertakings, for which MARI gets 50% of its costs from UK government-backed bodies, involve development of communications links between programming teams on different sites and work on computer aided design programs.

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