It was 1983, and Acorn Computers was on top of the world. They have a very successful BBC microcomputer in the UK. But the world of personal computers was changing. Cheap 8-bit micro market that parents buy Helping children do their homework became saturated. New devices from across the pond, such as the IBM PC and the upcoming Apple Macintosh, promised significantly more power and ease of use. Acorn needed a way to compete, but he didn’t have much money for research and development.
Sophie Wilson, one of BBC Micro’s designers, foresaw this problem. It has added a slot called a “tube” that can connect to a more powerful CPU. A slotted CPU can take over the computer, leaving the original 6502 chip free from other tasks.
But which therapist should you choose? Wilson and co-designer Steve Furber studied several 16-bit options, such as the Intel 80286, 32016 National Semiconductor, and Motorola 68000. But none of them were entirely satisfactory.
Wilson explained, “We can see what all these processors did and didn’t do. So the first thing they didn’t do was they didn’t make good use of the memory system. The second thing they didn’t do was they weren’t fast. They weren’t user friendly.”
Then they visited the Western Design Center in Mesa, Arizona. This company was making the beloved 6502 and designing the 16-bit successor, the 65C618. Wilson and Furber found little more than a “suburban house” with a few engineers and some students drawing blueprints using old Apple II computers and bits of masking tape.
Despite the challenges of creating their own CPU, Acorn’s senior management has supported their efforts. Hermann Hauser, co-founder of Acorn, Ph.D. In physics, the team gave copies of IBM Research Papers Describe a new and more powerful type of CPU. It was called RISC, which stands for “Reduced Instruction Set Computing”.
For further future proof of the new Acorn CPU, the team decided to skip the 16-bit and go straight to the 32-bit design. This actually made the slice simpler internally because you didn’t have to break up the large numbers as often, and you could access all memory addresses directly. (In fact, the first chip only exposed 26 of the 32-line address pins, since 2 to the power of 26, or 64MB, was a ridiculous amount of memory at the time.)
Watch the fascinating history of the first slides and how they launched the computing revolution Ars Technica.
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