Mill Valley, California: September 22, 1986.
In a move that astounded industry analysts, a previously unknown company in Marin County, California announced the first commercial product embodying technology developed by the Pentagon's Very High Speed Integrated Circuit (VHSIC) project.
Kelvin R. Throop, spokesman for Strategic Weapons Systems of Marin, Inc. announced VHSIC-CALC at an impromptu press conference held at the company's headquarters.
Throop described the product as a MIMD parallel processor composed of over one million Gallium Arsenide VLSI single chip processors. The processors form a 1024x1024 cellular array: each processor is connected to its four neighbors in a rectangular grid. All processors run off a common 500 Mhz clock. The processors are based on RISC architecture, and execute instructions from a 1K by 32 bit on-chip RAM. Most instructions execute in one cycle, resulting in a throughput of 500 million instructions per second per processor, or 500 trillion instructions per second peak system performance.
Each CPU in the array executes a control program which repeatedly evaluates a mathematical formula stored in the RAM. Values required by the formula may be stored locally or derived from other processors, and values calculated may in turn be routed through the array to other CPUs. Throop said that cellular arrays of this form have proved useful in many forecasting, analysis, and planning functions. The unprecedented throughput of VHSIC-CALC will make applications previously undreamed of possible, he claimed.
Defense and other government sources were quick to endorse VHSIC-CALC. General William Tecumseh Chaos of the Larkspur Nuclear Weapons Dump said, ``in VHSIC-CALC we see the fruits of the billions we've pissed away on advanced technologies. Before, we often relied on guesswork to make our crucial decisions, but you know: a megaton here, a megaton there, and before long you're talking a really big hole. VHSIC-CALC will let us plan and forecast and anticipate the unknown with a clarity we haven't seen since Pearl Harbor''. Reaction in Washington was enthusiastic: Quentin Terabuck, director of the Strategic Deficit Initiative said, ``American technology is the key to America's security. Let's see those sneaky wiretapping commie slimebags recalculate their budget in 50 nanoseconds. And they talk about central planning!''.
Industry reaction was muted. John Walker, president of Autodesk, Inc., another Marin County high-technology company, said ``I applaud SWSOM's commitment to the mass market as illustrated by their choice of the Commodore 64 as the control processor for VHSIC-CALC. While I feel that the suggested retail price of 40 billion dollars will slow acceptance in the retail market, inevitable price reductions may lead to a growing presence in the VAR channel''. When asked, ``What's a VAR?'', Walker expanded, ``Beats me''.
Editor: John Walker