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 on: November 04, 2016, 06:21:36 pm 
Started by JJW - Last post by JJW
Celerity Computing was not NCR but since it was formed by NCR employees (from Rancho Bernardo and Scripps Ranch in San Diego) and used an NCR processor chip, I thought a brief description is appropriate for this forum.

Celerity was formed in 1983 By Steve Vallender (President), Nick Aneshansley (V P of hardware development) and Drew McCrocklin (VP of software development) all from NCR. The idea behind the new company was that the high speed microprocessor that was used to execute Criterion firmware could be turned into a high speed, direct execution computer for graphic processing which would operate in an office environment and compete with other newly formed companies in an emerging marketplace (like Apollo and Sun Microsystems).

Other NCR employees were quickly brought on board: #4 was Karl Lehman (who would do device drivers) and #5 was me (J. J. Whelan, to work on the port of the Unix Operating System). Others on the software side were: Jeff Anderson (who was familiar with Unix and would also work on the port), Sandra Lee (to do utilities and who was just a general keep everyone's head focused sort of individual), Patricia Shanahan (who would port the Unix compilers), Clark Masters (to take care of operations, software tools and configuration management) and Stephanie McCartney (to do product builds and integration as well as general support). Hardware Engineers from NCR included Jim Kocol, Jim Gilbert and Gary Gilbert. On the software side we were joined by an excellent group of developers from the Burroughs office in Rancho Bernardo. The offices and final hardware assembly were located in a building in Scripps Ranch across the freeway from the NCR facility.

The main challenges were two fold: To turn the 16 bit architecture of the execution side of the chip into a full fledged 32 bit architecture and to provide virtual storage capability on a chip that didn't possess the fault mechanisms to properly suspend operations when a memory location was not available. Implementation was aided by the fact that the chip provided for a large number of external registers (intended for I/O) that could be used to implement the interface with the new hardware and (most importantly) that the chip had a full 32  bit access to external data memory. The founders had already come up with the basics for solving these difficulties and it fell to the rest of us to fill in the details.

This was an excellent team with both managers and others who had experience in designing, creating and delivering products to schedule. The initial development was done on a DEC VAX system and BSD Unix was the Unix base. The operating system goal was to exactly match the behavior of the VAX system.

The resulting system turned out to be more of a competitor with the DEC VAX products than with the originally intended graphics office systems.

The second system produced was a dual processing system and Jeff Anderson and I created what I believe was the first commercially available multi-processor Unix kernel.

The fact that the system was being used mostly in scientific processing environments led to the decision that we should focus on the low end of the supercomputer market. The next product was an up to eight processor high performance system based on a high speed clone of the NCR chip build out of generally available integrated circuits. However, sales of systems didn't make up for the cost of development and the company was merged with FPS Systems in Beaverton Oregon.

FPS was a very successful manufacturer of scientific array processors which were attached to DEC and IBM equipment. They were encountering decreasing sales because DEC and IBM were providing their own array processors (often integrated with their system). The idea was that the merged company could provide a high performance scientific system with array processing capabilities that would compete with DEC, if not IBM. This hope was buoyed by the fact that FPS had a successful sales team and record in the desired marketplaces. The Mainframe development remained in San Diego under the same management though Clark Masters took over from Steve Vallender..

It was also realized that the Celerity team would not be able to keep up with the rapidly growing high performance micro-chips and it was decided to move away from the NCR based architecture. After looking into the possibilities, the decision was to use the Sun Microsystems SPARC architecture. A high performance SPARC chip was already in development and Sun had no plans to develop a supercomputing system using it and that meant elerity would have Sun's full cooperation. SPARC also already had the, UCB Unix based, Solaris operating system and it was simple matter to move the multi-processing capabilities to that version.

The combined company sold several systems but was unable to maintain itself and was bought by Cray and then sold to Sun where it ended its life as the "Sun Supercomputing" division.

 on: November 01, 2016, 06:53:35 am 
Started by fred - Last post by JJW
Heiko, It wasn't until VRX (Centurion not Century though they had almost identical instruction sets and API's) that an indexed sequential access method was provided as part of the standard software. That was available on disks, not CRAM which was pretty much discontinued with the Century series.

 on: November 01, 2016, 06:12:00 am 
Started by kdianis - Last post by JJW
As implementer of the B1 executive/kernel and designer and implementer of the B2 executive/kernel I can definitively state that "B" meant "Basic" meaning fundamental, not related to the programming language of that name. Probably reasonable for B1 but the others became more and more divorced from just providing the fundamentals but the "B" was retained.

 on: October 31, 2016, 07:24:55 pm 
Started by JJW - Last post by JJW
Shortly after I completed the work on the 315 On-line Banking Executive for teh 321 controller and it became a product, there was an emergency support request from the Philippines. A system had been ordered for the Philippine National Bank and they were planning a big roll-out of their first on-line system within a couple of weeks. We were told that the system wasn't working and that since the then-president Marcos was scheduled to attend the openning it was imperative that the problem be corrected. I spent a day running around L.A. getting a visa and passport and was on a plane to Manila the next day with the 321 hardware engineer.

We arrived to discover that the problem was that much of the equipment had been left out in the tropical rain in a leaky container. New equipment was shipped by air and the system came up and ran perfectly. I spent the week training the support team in the On-line software system.

One think about the visit I won't forget was that the Philippine branch had an apartment for visitors with a maid who prepared breakfast for us every morning. She taught me how to prepare mangoes.

 on: October 31, 2016, 06:55:35 pm 
Started by JJW - Last post by JJW
I started at the NCR Electronics Division in Hawthorn California writing what would now be called device drivers for the 315 computer. The 315 didn't have anything like a modern operating system. All the device drivers were linked directly with the program that used them and the whole package was loaded into memory for execution.

There was a monitor program that was executed between the applications that controlled the order and specifics of which batch jobs were run. I remember (though it's been some time) that it allowed control of program by date, day, and time so that companies could have certain programs run daily, others monthly, others on weekends, ...

Programs were often linked with "executives" which provided a more general control of peripherals and operations, somewhat more like modern operating system "kernels". I believe "STEP" (Standard Tape Executive Program) provide magnetic tape file and reel management. There was a similar executive for CRAM devices (though I forget the name).

I, personally, worked on the on-line banking executive which provided communication device and CRAM management for banking systems. It was also adapted for Pacific Southwest Airlines ticketing and check-in.

 on: October 31, 2016, 06:32:05 pm 
Started by n8eyh with OCD-WM42 of Hilse - Last post by JJW
At NCR in Hawthorne CA, I was responsible for providing support for the 321 communications controller in the 315 On-Line Banking Executive. Then later I designed and built the B2 operating system for the NCR Century and was also involved in hardware designs for multi-processor systems. Because of that I had several chances to interact with the NCR Japan team regarding Sumitomo Bank and especially with Akiyama-san. In some ways we were friendly rivals with his focus being on Sumitomo Bank and mine on general purpose operating system capabilities.

There is no doubt that the numerous indexing registers provided a performance challenge for any multi-tasking system. The choices wer basically to 1. save and restore all of them, 2. save and restore only some and limit applications to those. or 3. to share the registers among all tasks and require programmers to use only certain registers in certain tasks. In providing a general purpose system I chose #1 (the least performance effective). Akiyama-san with his focus on Sumitomo Bank and with a known programming staff capable of managing their register use chose #2 (and I believe some use of #3 with the registers which were not saved and restored.

With the introduction of the Centurion computers and virtual memeory this problem could be resolved by the virtual memory system since the indexing "registers" were actually in the first 256  bytes of the program memory. That allowed register switches to be performed simply by changing the first virtual memory page.

 on: October 31, 2016, 06:14:48 pm 
Started by fred - Last post by JJW
I'm sorry I didn't discover this web site much earlier. I had done some searches for old NCR information but for some reason this site never popped up until now. An introduction:

I worked at the NCR Electronics Division in Hawthorn, CA and later in Rancho Bernardo, CA from 1964 until 1984 where the 315, Century and Centurion computers were designed and built. I was a programmer on several projects. Most notably, I designed and built the B2 operating system (with one other programmer). worked closely with the designers of the B3 and B4 operating systems. I was also the chief technical architect for the VRX operating system.

-- JJ Whelan

 on: October 08, 2016, 07:58:56 pm 
Started by fred - Last post by heikobuss
Hello Fred,

>> It seems like all the messages on the forum are quite old.

You are right - unfortunately .....

>> Is everybody dying off or what?

No, not all - I'm still alive - Thank God!

I was a Field Engineer for the Century series in Germany.

After 5 years of work I switched to the other side of the desk - from Hard- to Software and from a NCR-employee to a NCR-customer-employee.

There I hat to write a whole lot of software - mostly in NEAT/3 and NEAT/VS.

And you are right - in the pre-Terminal-ages the changes to all the files where made in sequential acces - via the "Father-Son-technique" (I hope, this is the correct english word for that).

Of course I wrote my own indexed-access-routines - I guess, everybody does this. But with the restricted space on a 655-Disk (4,5 MB!) one had not too much of possibilities!

Then came the Terminal-Dialog-Ages. In germany whe had  from NCR Augsburg a software package named "TECOS" - you could write dialog programs with "Send/Reveice"-Commands. And a package named "MIDAS" - this was a small clone of the well known Database-Package "TOTAL" from Cincom Systems. With "MIDAS" you had a set of random commands to retrieve/change/insert data - very comfortable for that times.

Later on on the Criterion Mainframe there were indexed acces via the "CAM"-Method of access.

Good memories - yes, times have changed ....

All the best

 on: October 06, 2016, 01:18:21 am 
Started by fred - Last post by fred
Is anybody listening in here or contributing? It seems like all the messages on the forum are quite old. Is everybody dying off or what?

I just found the site but had no way to get in on it because registration had been locked. An email to the webmaster gave me access.

My interest to look came about because my daughter asked me to write a little history of our business. I was one of the founders of SBUG which stood for Service Bureau Users Group where all of us used NCR computers. Of course I threw just about everything out from those days in the early 70s but she wanted a picture of our mainframe. Who keeps such things. Luckily this site has quite a bit of memorabilia available thanks to people who saved stuff.

I have one question that has been bugging me. When I was a Sr. Analyst I had several customer sites under my wing. Most folks were using or trying to use existing NCR software packages but my main client expected me to write most of their software custom and being that NCR included about a year of support, I was the lucky guy to do it. Problem was there was no way to get to data except for random and sequential access. I had to write my own indexed sequential access system and always wondered how did other programmers handle access. Any thoughts?


 on: September 05, 2016, 07:54:57 pm 
Started by lapham - Last post by lapham
I am new here so I hope you will forgive me if I'm not in the right directory Grin
I started with NCR in 1962 in Chicago. I was an service apprentice working on the 390 systems. Most of my training as an apprentice was at Spiegel's where they had 5 390's - Tracer numbers 1, 2, and 5 were 3 of them. I graduated from CTEC and spent the next 12 years servicing 390 and 500 systems in Chicago. We had about 50 systems and 6 servicemen. I remember a lot more about the 390 and 500 than I really want to Grin
In 1976 I went to Cambridge as a specialist on the Retail Systems - 725, 8250, 8270 and 9020 just to name a few. This group later became the Retail Global Support Center in Atlanta in 1990. I retired from there in 2000 but I am still friends with many of my coworkers. Over the 39 years with NCR I also serviced many other machines - too numerous to mention like 315, CRAM, on-line communications on and on.
When I figure out how to post pictures I will. I tried to attach a picture of the Chicago EDP office and Data Center as a test.
Any questions about 390 or 500 fire away. Or 725, 8250, 8270, 9020.
Richard Lapham

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