National Semiconductor Corp, as reported briefly (CI No 801) has begun sampling its new NS32532 32-bit microprocessor, and claims that the new part – its third generation 32-bit microprocessor offers between 8 MIPS and 10 MIPS sustained performance. NatSemi also introduced a 32-bit board level system based on the VMEbus running Unix System V.3. The company has no plans as yet to sell the system as an end-user product, saying it is intended for use as an evaluation board and as a native debug and execution environment for programs developed on a host computer. NatSemi expects a number of systems integrators to build Unix-based systems supporting from 64 to 200 users with the VME532 and in particular is warning arch-rival Motorola that over the next six months or so a number of companies that have traditionally used the Motorola 68000 series will be switching to the 32532. The reason that these companies never switched before, explains NatSemi, is that although its processors had a slight performance advantage, it was not sufficient to warrant change: however this time around it expects the situation to alter given the raciness of the 32532, and the current doubts concerning performance of Motorola’s just-available 68030. It is noteworthy too that while National Semiconductor is moving onto its third generation 32-bit part (AT&T has also made it to the third generation with the WE32220), Intel is still on its first with the 80386, and Motorola is coming up to its second. Indeed, NatSemi would claim that it is the third-and-half generation, since the NS32016, with 16-bit bus stood in the same relation to the NS32032 as the 8088 does to the 8086. Although National Semiconductor sees the Unix based workstation and multi-user systems market as being significant, it is concentrating most of its efforts in the high end control market, which its sees as being the biggest market for the new processors, and the one with the most growth potential. For this market NatSemi has implemented VRTX, the real-time operating system from Ready Systems Inc, Palo Alto, the former Hunter & Ready, and says that it has a context switching time of 3.6 microseconds and interrupt latency time of 1.3 microseconds. 50 MIPS CMOS micrprocessor By 1991, the company sees the multi-user and workstation systems accounting for just 9% of the 32-bit microprocessor market, while high-end control systems take the lion’s share, 51%, and personal computers account for 40%. The NS32532 is also supported by the NatSemi’s SYS 32/20 development system which enables designers to develop and run programs on an MS-DOS micro at speeds similar to those of a DEC VAX-11/780, according to the company. Since the 32532 has the same instruction set as the previous incarnations of the 32000 series, the company can claim full upward and downward compatibility with the rest of the family despite a number of enhancements. The chip, which integrates 370,000 transistors, has on-chip data and instruction cache memory, a memory management unit and a clock generator, and implements a four-stage pipeline architecture. The first incarnation is fabricated using the company’s 1.5 micron double-metal CMOS process and will initially run at 20MHz, but a 30MHz version is not far behind. Looking to the future NatSemi says that it has another generation in development which is not necessarily RISC-based, suggesting that in many cases, reduced instruction set computing makes life easier for the manufacturer but a lot harder for the end-user because of the greater amount of code generation that is required. It also suggests that the 32532 already includes the better parts of RISC such as high level of integration of complex compilers with the hardware. NatSemi says that it will bring out a chip equivalent in performance to the forthcoming version of Sun Microsystem’s SPARC that is being implemented by Bipolar Technologies Inc in ECL, which implies 50 MIPS from a single CMOS chip – but it is not yet ready to put any dates on its promise.
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