Crystal Sets

The greater importance of software over hardware was highlighted at the launch of the Crystal 68000 'micro' last week.

The new machine, which is a very large micro with pretensions (not unjustified) to being a mini, is based around a Pertec CPU card carrying a 68010 chip clocked at 10MHz, and can run several different operating systems.

It's assembled by Aston Technology, a new company which has its headquarters in the Aston Science Park, a venture intended to generate jobs and wealth by the use of new technology.

The system has a local area network which uses the RS232 serial standard in the R-series machines, but in the C-series there is a high-speed networking system, which uses co-axial (TV-type) cable to pass data to remote workstations at rates up to 250K bps. The maximum length of cable can be 20,000ft, and the size of a datablock can be up to 1K.

The Crystal Workstation is a Z80-based machine with either 16K or 64K memory, and apart from slotting into a multi-user system, it can also run a full CP/M 2.2.

Of course, Aston Technology would doubtless prefer customers to embrace one of the more upmarket OSs which the machine will run, such as Unix, BOS, the Crystal OS or Pick.

This latter is the subject of a major promotion drive by the company.

Pick, which is deemed by its devotees to be the most sophisticated operating system so far developed, was written in the early '70s by Dick Pick as a 'no-compromise' system, and was originally used by the US Department of Defense to control the spare-parts file for the Cheyenne helicopter.

Besides Dartmouth Basic, the Crystal 68000 comes with a program called System Builder, which is designed to front-end Pick. This is claimed to offer the 'easiest to use and fastest development system...ever encountered.'

The machine comes in two styles, as a desktop unit and a floor-mounted cabinet and prices start from £5,550.