AMIGA TRANSPUTER PROJECT
Imagine being able to create the most powerful artwork on the Amiga.
In 16 Million Colors. With Unlimited Resolution.
Imagine 24-bit RAM animation, NTSC/PAL, RS178, Analog RGB/Composite video,
10 RISC MIPS/1.5/MFLOPS, 19 MB/S drawing speed, 8MB BLIT Operations.
For more performance, the graphics board connects to our Transputer
Processor Boards, each capable of a max performance of 120 RISC MIPS.
Each transputer chip is capable of addressing four gigabytes of memory.
Amiga World, December 1989 - Full page advert from Digital Animation Productions
If you were an Amiga owner during the late 1980s it is likely that you were
excited by the mere mention of 'Transputer'. The Transputer was an 1980s term
describing hardware that directly supported parallel processing. This enabled
the transparent connection of multiple processors that would be used to work
upon a single task. However, information on these boards has become increasingly
elusive. On this page I attempt to catalogue every transputer card that has
been sold or announced. If a board is missing or you can
provide additional graphics or information on an Amiga Transputer projects,
e-mail me using the address on the main page.
Kasmin Zorro2 card
Visiona Highpaint graphics card
|Developer: XPert Computer Services GmbH (Muenchen)
A 1991 catalogue confirms the existence of 5 Avalon transputer boards, designed
for A500, A2000 & A3000 machines. Product information suggests a transfer
rate of 1Mb/s. A newsgroup
post suggests development was frozen in April 1991 as a result of problems
with their software supplier.
|8Mb RAM maximum
|Zorro II and Zorro II slots
|Zorro II and Zorro III slots
|1 - 4 T800
|Zorro II and Zorro IIII
|AS T1 & T4
|64Mb RAM maximum
|Zorro II and ZorroIII
Flexible design according to user requirements. A choice of modules is
- T800 with 1MB DRAM
- T800 with 4MB DRAM
- T800 with 8MB DRAM
- T800 with 128KB no wait-state SRAM
- T800 with 1MB no wait-state SRAM
- T800 with 2MB no wait-state SRAM
- T800 with 2MB DRAM and 32KB no wait-state SRAM (double module width)
- T800 with 4MB DRAM and 128Kb n.w-s. SRAM (double module-width)
- T801 with 160kb n.w-s SRAM (double module width)
AVALON MODULAR is compatible with INMOS standard B008. This allows a
maximum of 10 T800's to be mounted onto a single board. It is recommended
for use with the Visiona graphics card. The following software was available:
- TRANSPUTER-ASSEMBLER with an AMIGA specific set of Commands and LIBRARIES
- PARALLEL-C Compiler
- HELIOS (Operating System for transputers)
- The INMOS development system
- Raytracing application
|Developer: Binaerdesign Computer-Grafik (Germany)
Date: Late 1980s
During the early 1990s Wuertzburg-based Binaerdesign Computer-Grafik sold a
range of transputer hardware & software.
|Amiga Transputer Workstation
|10 MIPS + 1.5 MFlops pro 20Mhz T800 Transputer
|Internally expandable up to 5x T800. HeliOS available.
|1280 x 1024/256 Colours or 800 x 900/16.7million.
The company also sold the following transputer-related software:
|3D modeling in 16.7 million colours. Support for multiple
transputers Output in pal res.or in 8000 x 8000 (slides)
|Script-Oriented Animation system using the Cinemira-2 language.
VLAN-compatible control of single frame video recorders.
|Output or 24Bit Amiga Graphics (TurboSilver, Sculpt3D, DigiView,
TIFF, TGA, Miranim, 3DProfessional, Calgari, etc.). Export in IFF TGA and
KASMIN ZORRO 2 CARD
|Developer: Team 4 Video?
Date: Early 1990s?
Ian Dibsdall provides an overview of the Kasmin Zorro2 graphics card.
The "Kasmin" is a Zorro2 24bit framebuffer card, with integrated
RGB video digitiser and driven by a 25MHz T800 transputer. It is capable of
storing 2 frames of full PAL resolution (768 x 576) in memory, and supports
KasminPaint and TVPaint.
I have two cards, one (pictured) is a prototype. Sadly non-functional (damage
to the tracks on the back, possibly repairable?).
The other is one of (I believe) five cards actually made, and fully working.
Kasmin appeared at around the same time as the Harlequin, and in fact they share
a lot in development. It uses the "grafexa.library", which is like
a very early RTG system, allowing different cards to share a common software
I have a reprint of an Amiga Format review, which was glowing in praise of
the card and in particular the digitiser (but noted you need RGB video, which
was more pro/studio than home use then.). Curiously there is no date on the
review, so I can't tell if is was published or not.
My card came from Team4 video in London, where I believe it was used in an
A3000 with TVPaint for stills work. I now have it in an A4000, which didn't
work at first, but with an incredible stroke of luck I was put in touch with
the original software developer, who fixed it for me.
The Amiga Transputer was proposed by Tim King
(who had previously ported TripOS to the 68k) and
several others at Metacomco. The company had
developed the custom OS, Helios to interact with the host operating system.
The project was demonstrated at several Commodore Amiga shows, but the company
never bought the technology. It was later sold as the Atari Transputer.
Dave Haynie gave the following thoughts in a posting to the TeamONE
Subject: Re: Amiga Transputer query
Jerry Everett provides further information on the Transputer board
in an excerpt from an e-mail to Joe Torre:
Date: Wed, 8 Jul 1998 23:25:33 -0400 (EDT)
The Transputer was certainly interesting. InMOS (the parent company
the time, the same guys making the original RAMDAC used for the IBM
card) seemed to want to make Transputers work essentially as front
to every piece of your system. Rather than talk talk to a hard disc,
you'd talk to a Transputer fronting the hard disc. Same with video
So conceptually, the processor could be used like an embedded CPU. It
had about 4K of on-chip RAM (not cache), a built-in RAM controller
glueless, just add DRAM), and it could boot from a network link (so,
theory anyway, you only had to boot one Transputer in a network by
conventional means). You generally programmed Transputers using Occam,
language designed specifically for/with the Transputer. Occam supported
thread-style tasks (the Transputer had no MMU, thus no heavy-weight
tasks) in the language, and used FIFOs/Pipes for communication, so
wrote code the same way, regardless of whether you were talking to
on the same Transputer or one over a link. It was an interesting
approach to loosely coupled multiprocessing.
The chink in the armor was the price. You paid around $400 for a T800,
when the 68030, at nearly the same performance (based on our benchmarks),
cost under $100 in quantity. So Transputers didn't function, in practice,
the way they were designed to work. At $10-$25, it would have been
practical to build a system with several, working as specified, fronting
I/O subsystems and all. The other problems were in software. Without
memory protection, it wasn't going to fly as a high-end system. The
Helios OS had a UNIX-like look, but it wasn't UNIX. Loosely coupled
multiprocessing isn't as general purpose as tightly coupled multiprocessing,
since the communications overhead is high, and thus best suited for
problems that can be broken up into lots of separate chunks. A company
called Meiko sold a Transputer array for graphics rendering, at least
back then (the Meiko Computing Surface), which was pricey, but no less
reasonable than an 8000 node iCOMP from Intel. For our work, it didn't
> I believe at
> this point Tim went on to sell the concept to Atari, where it became
> Atari Transputer.
Atari hooked up with the Perihelion guys, who had developed the system
that eventually became the Atari Abaca. Basically, they were graphic
guys (some of the same folks made the Atari Jaguar, and now work at
Labs), but in an effort, I suppose, to do something different, they
went for the Transputer. Needing an OS, they turned to Tim and the
with Atari doing the usual "here's some money, we can sell this" song
and dance. I hear they made a few hundred Abacas.
What I know of the transputer is that it was demoed at the
spring 1988 developer's conference in an off the shelf A2000. The board
looked very clean and neat. There was only one hand wired jumper on it,
so the project must have been fairly mature. It had a 32bit IMS T-414 or
T-900 transputer chip running at 15MHz (10 MIPs), with 2k of on-chip RAM
and one to four megabytes of external on-board DRAM. It communicated to
other transputers via four on-chip serial links. In a 2000 you could have
up to 4 other transputer daughter boards with 4 transputer chips on each.
The on chip links could be used to connect to other transputer equipped
2000s to create a Lan without the need for a network controller card. The
practical limitation was on the order of 500 transputer chips. The OS they
were using was a partially com- pleted version of "Helios". The only thing
they could demo was a Dhrystone test. It was very impressive for the time,
and not bad even by today's standards. I was really pissed when CBM just
dropped development (why spend money on something more advanced when you
could make money selling what you had in hand). Last I heard the Inmos
technology was owned by Phillips, I don't know what they did with it.
|Developer: Micro Anvika
Announced: October 1992
In his 1992
Amiga UK DevCon report, Eddy Carroll describes a Zorro III transputer
board being developed by London-based Micro Anvika. If the developer is
to be believed, the Transputer would have offered 'up to 40 times the performance
of a 68040 when fully loaded with transputers'.
Timeline: Late 1980s
In addition to the MetaComco solution, an Italian company developed
a second solution to the problem. In a TeamONE posting, Rudi Chiarito
describes it's development.
08 Jul 98 23:53:09 +0100
Back in the late '80s, Andrea De Prisco, the coordinator for the Amiga
section of MicroComputer (the best selling computer magazine here and
read at those times) developed with a few guys ADPNetwork. It was a
network of Amigas, running on serial cables.
They went as far as writing a network messaging API and a handler/filesystem
(mind you, this was in the 1.3 days). They successful had demos at
expos: you probably remember them at the DevCon in Paris, with their
ball bouncing across the displays of the three networked Amigas. They
lot of fun issuing COPY commands from the Shell, disconnecting the
while the transfer was in progress and then reconnecting it to let
continue without a glitch. Again, in those days it seemed like science
They weren't satisfied with the CPU power wasted by the network layer,
because each Amiga had to receive and pass along even packets that
directed to another machine! So they developed a Zorro board with a
serial port and a Transputer (a T400, IIRC), which switched packets
own, leaving the CPU free. A working prototype was built and there
plans for more powerful versions and a library to 'share' the Transputer(s)
among applications for small routines (like the A3000+ DSP).
Eventually, without any explanations, the project was abandoned and
the Amiga. Sadly enough, last time I read MicroComputer, years ago,
writing articles like "How to do this and that with Photoshop"... *sigh*
|Developer: SANG Computer systems Gmbh
Date: Late 1980s
A German product list from 1990 describes the following transputer products
manufactured by SANG Computers System. All prices reflect their cost in Gernaby
Deutsch Marks during March 1990.
|Interface card required to connect Sang transputer boards
to the Amiga. Driver software is also included. The MEGA-Link card is required
for the transputer boards listed below.
|Transputer board fitted with 4x T800 CPU.
|1 - 8Mb RAM per processor.
|Transputer board fitted with 1x T425/T800 CPU, colour video
controller (operates at 110 MHz and capable of 16.7 Million colours. A port
is available for framegrabber or U-Matic video machine. Multiple boards
can be linked up in parallel to increase processing power.
|8Mb RAM maximum
|Low-cost version of the MEGA-Link01 Plus with only one T425/T800
|32Mb RAM maximum
VISIONA HIGHPAINT GRAPHICS CARD
Launch: January 1991
(doubtful release date)
A web site (that has sadly bit the digital dust) suggests a T800 transputer was planned for the Visiona graphics card.
The card would have been used for the A3000.
For more information on Transputers visit RAM's
Transputer home page, or click here
to read Dave Haynie's criticism of early Transputer design.
Last Update: 16/02/2003