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April 20, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

Touch Communications Inc, of Scotts Valley, California has expanded its family of Open Systems Interconnection, OSI, based software with the introduction of what it claims are the first products based on the recently completed MAP/TOP 3.0 Manufacturing Automation Protocol/Technical Office Protocol specification. The company has also unveiled a version of the new software that can be downloaded from a Personal Computer to a Personal Computer network interface card. The company says off-loading the MAP/TOP protocols to the interface card frees the Personal from the burden of processing that would otherwise slow it down. Touch Communications will initially support 3Com’s Etherlink Plus Ethernet card with the new software version. In addition to 3Com’s interface, Touch plans to support downloading of its software to a variety of Personal Computer interface cards, according to Dennis Morrison, who is co-founder and general manager of the company. Although the company is committed to providing so-called controller-resident products for the IBM Token Ring and the Token Bus, Morrison said market demand would influence which network controllers are supported next.

Touch Open Systems

Both the controller-resident software and the MAP/TOP 3.0 software products work on IBM Personal Computers and compatibles and are scheduled to be delivered in the third quarter of this year. The 3.0 products will be an upgrade of Touch’s existing Touch Open Systems Interconnection products, Morrison notes. Introduced last autumn, these products are based on the MAP 2.1 and TOP 1.0 specifications and implement protocol layers three, the network layer up to layer seven, the application layer as defined by the OSI model. The Touch products are currently available as software that runs on IBM Personals and compatibles and the DEC VAX family; implementations are available for both Ethernet and IBM Token-Ring Network-compatible networks. The Manufacturing Automation Protocol is a set of emerging and established standards that enables factory-floor equipment manufactured by different vendors to communicate over a single network. Technical Office Protocol standards are aimed at the broader office and engineering environments. MAP specifies use of a broadband, coaxial cable-based, token-passing local area network. TOP is based on Ethernet-type baseband technology and employs carrier-sense multiple access with collision detection instead of token passing. Although the two networks differ at the physical and application layers, middle-level protocols are similar. Partly to build on these similarities, the individual groups working to define MAP and TOP protocols merged; the MAP/TOP 3.0 specification is the fruit of the two groups’ joint effort to define a common specification. Pricing of Touch Open Systems Interconnection to large end users and OEM customers includes an undisclosed licence fee, based on purchase volume. The products cost, on average, about $300 per Personal Computer.

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