STD reveal USB, NIC, IDE combo-podule By Chris Williams. Published: 31st Mar 2004, 22:00:51 | Permalink | Printable
Silicon tonic for the aging RiscPC [Updated] Trade-in optionsWith what looks like the most overloaded RiscPC podule card to be produced in a long time, Simtec Electronics has designed and manufactured what's been described as "the only RiscPC podule you'll ever need" and "how podules used to look". Their latest expansion card, called the UniPod, features two USB ports (with MassFS drivers), a 100MBit network interface and an IDE interface that supports up to four drives. A photo of it is below.
The UniPod, with USB, NIC and IDE ports
The podule, which was commissioned by Stuart Tyrrell Developments, also includes a printer port and an econet-compatible expansion port. The pricing scheme of the card is also refreshingly trivial compared to other RISC OS product pricing schemes (Qercus subscriptions and MassFS spring immediately to mind): Buy a card for 99UKP and get one of the USB, NIC or IDE functions enabled. To enable other functions will cost 25UKP per interface although there's a price reduction if you enable all three. Pricing of the printer and expansion ports is to be decided and interestingly enough, developer documentation for the card will be free of charge.
Stuart of STD explained: "It is designed to give RiscPC owners a cost-effective expansion route. UniPod offers a plethora of functions to be performed within a single expansion card slot. This makes it ideal for those wishing to expand a RiscPC, or to prolong the effectiveness of a RiscPC as a secondary machine."
Prolong it certainly shall, and prolonging is just what the RiscPC needs, seeing as the machine will be celebrating its 10th birthday next month. The UniPod card is available now from STD, who we also pestered earlier today with various annoying questions, so here's the scoop from Stuart Tyrrell himself:
Q. That board looks a little crowded: can the RiscPC podule bus deliver enough power to all those interfaces?
A. "The production podule complies completely with the expansion card power specifications - it's something which I put in the requirements specification for obvious reasons."
Q. Your press release says the card is "32bit", what does that mean? Could you use it on an Iyonix, despite the Iyonix having USB, a 10/100/1000MBit NIC and fast IDE already?
A. "UniPod is a 32-bit expansion card (ie: it is possible to pass twice as much data per transaction as a traditional 16-bit podule).
"At the moment we're promoting the card for the RiscPC only, as, as you point out, the Iyonix has all the functionality already. We have not yet had time to investigate how much work would be involved to make the card function on the Iyonix, nor whether any likely sales would make that work worthwhile. The Iyonix X100 is not able to use podules."
Q. Any other plans for RiscPC upgrades?
Q. Is this your last, grand finale in terms of RiscPC upgrades?
Q. Will it be the Iyonix next?
A. "Maybe. We already have a few products for the Iyonix, although it's difficult to develop novel hardware for a fully-featured machine. Whenever we ask, no-one has any suggestions beyond writing drivers for PCI cards, which is really the realm of other software, not hardware developers."
Update at 10:29 2/4/2004
STD are now offering a limited-time part-exchange scheme for owners of separate USB, IDE and NIC cards: full details are here. Also, as stressed in the original announcement, enabling functions on the UniPod doesn't require users to return the podule to STD.
UniPod website - full pricings, details and also, don't be put off by the embargo date (and yes, drobe.co.uk does have permission)
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