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Thread: Powertran Cortex

  1. #41
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    So Tony, can you give us a little history about the Cortex as a project? It's a pretty serious piece of kit for a big company to put all that effort into just for a magazine project. It surely had to be an abandoned commercial home/business computer product? We know about the TI99/8 that was dropped at the last minute, was this something similar? Do tell

  2. #42

    Default how the cortex came to be...

    The cortex came about as an extension of a group of us at TI trying to build ourselves a home computer out of "scrap", remember that at the time a home computer was somewhere between non-existant and insanely expensive. We started of by taking faulty viewdata boards (sort of teletext over a dial-up modem) based on the TMS9980. When the TMS9995 came out we started looking at building something around that. At that time TI had a minicomputer division (990/12 etc) and a home computer division (99/4A) with lots of internal politics to ensure that the home computer didn't tread on the minicomputer dept toes so to speak, we however worked for the semiconductor division an just wanted to build something and management just wanted to sell chips. The semiconductor division building a home computer was a big no-no, it would have been stomped on by both the home computer division & the minicomputer division so we had unofficial encouragement to go ahead with the design and the way to "get it out" was ETI (as long as there was no direct connection to TI), Powertran simply made the kits & sold it.

    Jim Gill and myself did the BASIC (based on one from TI but mostly rewritten), Colin Hinson did the debug monitor, Neil Quarmby did the schematics and floppy boot code and Ian White did hardware prototyping and "resourcing".

    Originally the computer was named "Synapse" and the first prototype photos showed that name but it was renamed at the last moment because of a conflict with another product with that name.

  3. #43
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    Some fantastic information there Tony - thanks! It must have been very cool to have all the resources available in-house and just be let go to do your own thing. Talk about kids in a candy store!

  4. #44

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    This is the schematic of the ebus arbiter from the design manual, probably the LS2001 was intended to have this inside. Should be doable with a simple PAL these days.

    For those people looking at the memory mapper chip I seem to remember that we could use eithe a LS610 or a LS612 and that one of those was used in old XT class PCs so if you can track down an old old PC motherboard you might be able to reclaim the chip. The memory mapper remapped the top 4 address lines from the processor, thats why there are 4 links to bypass the mapper if it isn't fitted.
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  5. #45

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    resources were available but not officially, lots of favours and being resourceful with all the work being done out of hours but it was a lot of fun too.

  6. #46
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    So once it was out the door to ETI/Powertran was that it or did you remain involved with support/further development? I only know Neil was involved later on because he was selling CDOS for about 50 pounds per copy in 1985. Now that makes sense, since you said he was the one who did the floppy code! When I was scanning the ROM listing, I noticed that the comments for the floppy boot are in lower-case, whereas the rest of it is in upper-case. I guess he had his own style...

  7. #47

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    I wasn't with TI shortly after the magazine article came out although I did go back to work for them years later. Part of the deal with the cortex was that we got one of the kits each as "payment" and it my macine and Jim Gill's that I have in my loft. None of the group are still with TI but with the exception of Ian White I know where they still are so fortunately still accessible for anything I've forgotten.

  8. #48
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    I guess it's only fair to ask, but as I plan on making my Cortex Emulator available to anyone on here that may be interested (like 3 people!), I will obviously be posting the ROM image which I guess is your work! Do you have any objections? Also, I would like to put up CDOS. Do you think Neil would mind? (Perhaps you could ask him). I would feel better knowing. Thanks.

  9. #49

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    I don't think anyone would care, if push came to shove then TI would probably claim that they owned everything (naturally) but this is all so far in the past and of no commercial interest to anyone.

  10. #50
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    Thanks. Like I said, I feel better for asking! If it was my stuff, I'd be honoured 26 years later!

    I don't suppose you have the ROM source on disk anywhere? As I've said, I have the SDSMAC listing output, but would love to be able to rebuild the ROM from source files.

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