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December 16, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

Tuesday last week marked the European launch of the 32-bit NMX-332, the array processor from Numerix (UK) Ltd which breaks the UKP50,000 barrier and is supported by new software that is claimed to make Fortran programming easier. The NMX-322 is designed to be used as a coprocessor for the DEC VAX and MicroVAX lines, something Numerix believes gives it enormous potential since DEC holds approximately 60% of the UK scientific computing marketplace. Competitors like Floating Point Systems and CSPI provide processors for more than one range and are continually fighting to keep up with the latest products from various manufacturers, whereas Numerix can focus on the one product line, it suggests. An array processor works rather like a line of people passing a bucket of water to each other. If there are six people then each does a sixth of the work getting the bucket from one end of the line to the other. In an array processor a chip will do part of a calculation and pass the result to another chip to work on. This goes on until the calculation is complete and is by definition much quicker than a scalar processor which would carry out each calculation separately. The Numerix NMX-322 attaches to its VAX host via Q-bus, Unibus or VAXBI interfaces and processes at 24MFLOPS using a single processor from Analog Devices Inc of Needham, Massachusetts. It features up to 64Mb of directly addressable data memory as well as a separate program memory and has inputoutput ports operating at 24Mbytespersecond. Numerix says its use of CMOS gate array technology has enabled it to maintain the architecture of its existing NMX-432 processor. This gives access to a large VAX software base and to MicroVAX users and OEM customers who want less power from a rack mounted or free standing processor. Numerix claims the NMX-332 can carry out Fast Fourier Transform calculations – that’s where an algorithm is used to convert time data to frequency data demonstrated by sonar being displayed as waves on an oscilloscope – 250 times faster than the VAX processor. The transparent Integrated Vector Processing software, also announced last week, enables a Fortran 77 program almost identical to an original VAX one to be written. It is compiled on the VAX and carried to the 332 when it is needed leaving an inputoutput handling routine behind which can be called on when necessary. NMX-322 has been available in the US for around six months from Numerix Corp of Newton, Massachusetts. Orders have already been taken from various government departments including naval research establishments. In the UK, Numerix expects to see the processor going to the defence, oil, aerospace and automobile sectors and is already in talks with the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and the Admiralty Research Establishment at Teddington, Middlesex.

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