Atari Transputer ATW-800.. Faster than the Light!

Submitted by binaryvalue on Thu, 05/26/2022 - 09:58
ATW

The Atari Transputer or ATW-800 or ATW is a workstation manufactured in the late 1980s. The ATW’s architecture is based on parallel computing processor technology, developed by the British company Inmos. The system is able to accommodate from 1 to 17 transputer CPUs working in parallel.

  • 350 machines were produced in total and that includes 50/100 prototypes
  • The ATW-800 was sold for $8,000 ($18,650 in today's money)

glanceAT A GLANCE

  • Transputer runs at 20MHz (10 MIPS)
  • There are 4 slots that can contain 4 extra transputers each (thus a fully expanded ATW can incorporate 1+16 transputers)
  • 4MB of RAM (expandable to 16MB)
  • Blossom video system with 1MB of dual-ported RAM
  • Blitter functionality (built-in)
  • Helios (Unix-like) Operating System with the X Window System as the ATW Graphical User Interface
  • A modified Atari Mega-ST with 512kB of RAM is used inside the ATW as the I/O processor
  • The ATW uses Mega-ST’s keyboard/mouse
ATW Large
ATW uses Helios (Unix-like) OS and the X Window System as the GUI -Photo from Atari Museum

graphics Graphics & Modes

The video system (Blossom) offered a blitter and high-speed effects (128-megapixel fill rates).

Video modes:

  • 1280x960, 16 colors from a palette of 4,096
  • 1024x768, 256 colors from a 16,777,215 color palette
  • 640x480, 256 colors from a 16,777,215 color palette
  • 512x480, 32-bit "true color"

The Short-History of Transputer

In 1986, a few engineers started the development of a new parallel-processing operating system known as "Helios" to create a Transputer-based workstation that would use Helios. The concept was to create a system that could use several fast CPUs working in parallel.

Commodore was interested in their promising system and even created demos on an add-on card running inside an Amiga 2000. However, Commodore lost their interest in it. On the contrary, Atari made a deal with Perihelion and started to work on a project that would eventually result in the development of the ATW-800.

The Transputer was introduced in November 1987 as the Abaq. However, the name Abaq was already taken in Europe, therefore, it was changed to ATW800. The first prototype was released in May 1988, followed by a production run in May 1989.

Note, that the same Atari team behind the ATW's video system, later worked on the Atari Jaguar video game console.

 

■ Atari Transputer ATW-800

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