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Multi-CPU Hydra for sale

By Chris Williams. Published: 6th May 2003, 20:59:41 | Permalink | Printable

Simtec late Spring clean [Updated 15:17 8/5/2003]

Hardware developer Simtec Electronics are currently running a clearance sale offering legacy Acorn upgrade kit at silly prices, reports iconbar.com. In amongst their 4MB upgrades and RISC OS 3 ROM sets, there lies their fabled Hydra multiprocessor card up for grabs.

Acorn RiscPCs can normally take up to two processors, usually a host ARM processor and a second non-ARM processor like an Intel 586 to run Microsoft Windows based software, for example. The Hydra card however allows up to four slave processors and one master "boot" processor to be fitted inside a RiscPC enabling true multi-processor technology. However, RISC OS doesn't natively support multiple processors so one would have to resort to using a multi-processor aware OS (like a BSD) that uses threading to assign running programs to free CPUs. Alternatively, third party software writers could use the Hydra API software interface to allow their RISC OS applications to take advantage of the Hydra's power.

However, soon after the Hydra card was revealed (we're talking around 1996), Acorn produced the StrongARM processor card which we gather outperformed the Hydra card plus the take up of Simtec's Hydra API wasn't very inspiring. None the less, if you've got a load of spare ARM710 cards then you could own and use (to some extent) a piece of Acorn era history. Simtec have listed the card as "no longer manufactured" and are attempting to flog their remaining stock.

Update

Simtec have thrown us a couple of facts regarding the Hydra card that you might like to be aware of. They have just a few boards left incidentally.

The Hydra card's master CPU clot is StrongARM compatible, the slave slots can be StrongARM compatible if they're modified with obsolete components. The Hydra card software is not StrongARM compatible but Simtec assure us they'll be publishing on their website next week various related bits and pieces.

"Five ARM710 processors gave a four fold speed increase, slightly slower than a single StrongARM", explained Simtec in their email, with regard to the performance of the Hydra card. "Two StrongARMs gave a 1.8 times speed increase and that's as far as we tested it as we only had two SA cards at the time! It was unlikely that there would have been any significant benefit from a third CPU due to bus limitations."

Links

Simtec Hydra website

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Discussion

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I was reading about this in an interview article in AU with Eidos. They were really looking forward to the Hydra with ARM810 cards on it!!! -- Andrew Harmsworth, Cambridge. www.gcse.com owner and author

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 6/5/03 10:21PM
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Oh how we dreamt of this thing full of strongARMs...

back in '96...

nil by proper multi threading in RISC OS = nil by operation... ;-(

just another possibility....

at least now we have a 32bit version of the OS which allows more CPU choice.

If any of the chip manufacturers want to do a decent RISC processor - one with onboard floating point for instance.

Dreaming again...

Here we go again....

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis_RISC OS on 6/5/03 10:31PM
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There will be an FPA option for the Omega. :-)

-- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 6/5/03 11:06PM
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I'll expect that to be available right after the Omega's toaster, tea-making and quantum co-processor options then.

 is a RISC OS Userjbyrne on 6/5/03 11:14PM
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Omega blah blah. I still don't believe it'll get to production. You've not shown anything other than a dodgy prototype, Zimmerele. Suggest you stop the hot air and waffle. :-

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 7/5/03 1:20AM
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No, I have shown a prototype AND a production machine.

-- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 7/5/03 8:50AM
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Julian, until they are on sale to the public, it doesn't matter what you've seen or got.

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 7/5/03 9:07AM
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No point being unpleasant to Julian, he's not responsible for the Omega debacle. However I agree that until it's in the shops for sale and you can walk home with it, the Omega and it's add-on's are not available, and with MD's history no-one is going to take them seriously until they release what they have promised.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 7/5/03 10:33AM
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In the shops? Now that is asking a lot - for any RISC OS product.

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 7/5/03 11:05AM
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@TheDoctor: It obviously matters to some people, namely those who need lots of FP performance, since the current RISC OS machines do not offer this. -- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 7/5/03 11:41AM
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monkeyson: Surely there are still some high street shops that stock RISC OS boxes?

Julian: Sure it matters, but put yourself in the shoes of someone who ordered their Omega years ago, was given countless broken deadlines, and can barely muster a reply to an email from MD. Even if the FP module turns up, are we talking *lots* in Acorn terms or *lots* in everybody else's terms? I don't want to put a downer on the Omega I think if it arrives (with all promised bells and whistles), it'll do wonders for the platform, more so than the Iyonix I think, not so much on merit, but as it break the magic Ghz barrier.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 7/5/03 12:08PM
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@thegman: Omega-FP-wise we are talking lots in RISC OS terms and state-of-the-art in everybody else's terms. :-)

-- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 7/5/03 12:30PM
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But I should probably warn you that the FP option will most likely not ready for release at the launch of the Omega.

-- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 7/5/03 12:34PM
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JGZimmerie: Now there is a surprise....

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 7/5/03 12:49PM
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The sooner the better, then we can all play decent games, and do fast floating point math instead of having to integerise it all :-/ -- Ian Hawkins (g0tai)

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 7/5/03 1:05PM
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JG: You sure? ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 7/5/03 1:19PM
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Julian and thegman: I wasn't trying to be rude, even though it may have come across that way. I was simply saying that until it is on sale, it doesn't matter what features it has or how fast it is. Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 7/5/03 2:26PM
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Could not agree more.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 7/5/03 3:05PM
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@TheDoctor: It may be this way for most users, but I know of at least two, who would have left the RISC OS community already if the Omega's FP option had not been announced. Some people are only still on board because they're waiting for the FP-accelerated Omega. -- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 7/5/03 7:54PM
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Fair enough. FPU would be nice to have without doubt. But, how much software do we have that actually would actually make use of it? Most RISC OS software has been written for use on non-FPU machines. (OK, except BladeENC and LAME)

more to follow...

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 7/5/03 9:08PM
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If someone ports a game to RISC OS, do they remove the floating point code and optimise it for use on a StrongArm and Iyonix machines or do they instead cut off a large part of there intended market by leaving the floating point code in for the Omega?

Anyway, negativity aside, do we / you know which FPU they are intending to use? Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 7/5/03 9:13PM
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I know, but I must not tell anyone. :-( -- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 7/5/03 9:41PM
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Erm, there was never an Intel 586 available for the RiscPC. :)

(It can only take CPUs with a 32 bit bus - Intel's 586s had 64 bit. There were, however, 486s with the 586 instructions, and bigger caches, and other tweaks, which Cyrix called '5x86' and IBM 'Blue Lightning'

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 7/5/03 9:52PM
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Oh quite possibly Cyrix then. I quite definitely was using a 133Mhz "586" card from CJE last year to run Win98SE and IE6 from my RPC. My mistake.

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 7/5/03 10:08PM
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[link]

They sell them as 5x86s. :)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 7/5/03 11:27PM
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AMD sold their 133mhz chip as a 586 too. Intel only called their new chip the 'Pentium' because they weren't allowed to patent a number (586). Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 8/5/03 10:52AM
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s/patent/copyright/ (which is why their 486s are called i486s, so they have a character in them.)

Are you sure AMD actually sold 586s called 586s, and not K2s or whatever? I've never been able to keep up with AMD's naming scheme - it always seems silly.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 8/5/03 12:11PM
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It makes /real/ sense now that some of their XP2800 are based around two different cores and thus perform quite differently. In some cases the fast version of the XP2800 outperforms the XP3000. Real logic there. cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 8/5/03 6:27PM
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