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Technology / AI and automation


For those who get a kick out of ingenious applications of unproven but promising new technologies, the new Butterfly machines from Bolt Beranek & Newman Inc’s BBN Advanced Computers limited partnership (CI No 798) must be the most exciting announcement in many a long day. The key feature of the new machines is that they combine the unfamiliar – massively parallel processing – with the familiar – the Unix or p-S0S operating systems and the 68020 microprocessor. That seems to justify the company’s claim that the Butterfly GP1000 Unix-based system, is the most usable, large-scale parallel processor available – for applications such as production scheduling, circuit simulation and advanced decision support systems. The Cambridge, Massachusetts company suggests that the GP1000 is especially appropriate for a distributed workstation environment where application developers want to port standard Fortran 77 and C applications to a higher performance system. The Butterfly GP1000 uses Mach 1000, an enhanced version of the mul-tiprocessor Berkeley Unix 4.3BSD, written at Carnegie Mellon University. Mach 1000 offers enhances 4.3BSD Unix by offering higher performance virtual memory and optimised interprocessor communication via shared memory. Described as a true multiprocessor operating system, Mach 1000 includes full TCP/IP networking support and network-transparent message passing. It also provides a Unix command set, a variety of command interpreters and support for numerous terminal types. It enables users to create processes or allocate memory on specific processors, and dictate how many of the – maximum 250 processors to use for a given application. With Mach 1000, sets of processor nodes can be designated as time-shared or dedicated to high-performance tasks. The latter allows processors to execute at full speed without interference. It has also been tailored to the Butterfly GP1000 with automatic operations for maximum application performance, X Window support and support for the Math Advantage mathematics library and the Uniform System application library, designed to facilitate parallel programming. The GP1000 can be programmed in C, Fortran 77, Lisp, and will also support Ada and XMP optimisation software from Resource Management Systems Inc. Compared with the original Butterfly, the GP1000 adds a stand-ard disk file system; the ability to edit, compile, load and run, all on the same system; supp-ort for direct connection of many terminals to the system; the ability to exchange infor mation via cartridge or nine-track magnetic tape; and the ability to program without con-cern for the size of physical memory. A 30-CPU GP1000 with 120Mb main memory, 1.4Gb of disk storage, tape back-up and software will be under $500,000, with first ships in March.

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CBR Staff Writer

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