Looking forward from the ARM days of old
These days we often hear about CPUs based upon ARM cores. They can be found in mobile phones, embedded systems, laptops and even servers. Indeed, projects such as Mont Blanc are investigating the use of ARM based systems for high performance computing (HPC).
Back in the late 1980’s, I was a student in high-school and a budding computer scientist. In those days, my view of the personal computer market was ver North American centric. Until one day I read about a new desktop computer from the UK know as the Acorn Achimedes. This system was based upon a RISC CPU which was given the name ARM (Acorn RISC Machine). The writeup in the local Toronto Computes! newspaper indicated that Olivetti Canada was bringing the Acorn Archimedes range to North America. As luck would have it, Olivetti was just down the road from me. After after a few phone calls, I was invited to their offices for some hands on time with a top of the line Acorn Archimedes 440. This was the start of my journey with ARM based systems. The folks at Olivetti were kind enough let me use the Archie over a number of days. During that time, I had a chance to try out a number of different software products including games and productivity software. Overall, I was greatly impressed by the Archie and it’s operating system, RISC OS and it’s WIMP interface. One game in particular I remember quite well called Zarch - which showed off the 3D graphics capabilities of the system.
The only catch for me was the list price of the system. As I recall it was around $2,500 CAD, which for me at the time was prohibitive.
Moving forward to 2014, I’ve recently been tinkering with the ARM-based mini PC UDOO Quad running Debian Wheezy EABI (hard-float). This happens to intersect with another area of interest, Technical Computing.
I’ll share more of my experiences with Udoo Quad in the coming weeks.