Acorn Computers Plc’s Acorn RISC Machine microprocessor is to be the foundation of a new chip design company backed by Apple Computer Inc and VLSI Technology Inc as well as Acorn: the new Advanced RISC Machines Ltd will be based in Cambridge, UK, and will exploit the fact that the Acorn RISC is just about […]
Acorn Computers Plc’s Acorn RISC Machine microprocessor is to be the foundation of a new chip design company backed by Apple Computer Inc and VLSI Technology Inc as well as Acorn: the new Advanced RISC Machines Ltd will be based in Cambridge, UK, and will exploit the fact that the Acorn RISC is just about the most cost-effective device available in terms of price-performance, power-performance and size. The new company will initially be capitalised at UKP5m with Acorn – 80%-owned by Ing C Olivetti & Co SpA – and Apple taking equal shares, with Apple putting up cash and Acorn putting up cash and kind. VLSI Technology will put up cash for a much smaller stake, but the aim is to bring in other investors to take 35%, leaving Apple and Acorn with 30% each and VLSI with 5%. No immediate product plans were disclosed, though since Acorn is a graduate from the MOS Technology 6502 chip that was also the basis of the Apple II, there is the prospect for Apple of producing very cheap machines for the educational market capable of running both Apple II and Macintosh code using software or firmware emulators. Future designs will also be targeted at the major embedded control and notebook computer markets – Acorn co-founder Dr Hermann Hauser’s Active Book Company Ltd will use the ARM as the processor for its forthcoming notebook computer. Acorn claims that over 130,000 ARM chips have been shipped so far, and that the part’s small size makes it ideal as a standard cell in applications-specific controller circuits. The company claims a prices as low as $1 per MIPS for the 20 MIPS version of the chip, and says that the VLSI Technology implementation delivers the equivalent of 100 MIPS per Watt. Radius Inc uses the ARM in its graphics accelerators for the Apple Macintosh, and the other licensed fabricator, Sanyo Electric Co is developing embedded controllers around the part. The new ARM Ltd design company plans to offer a complete custom service for special versions of the RISC family. The new agreement does not affect its plans to use the Motorola 88000 RISC in high-end workstations, Apple affirmed; it is likely to use the Acorn RISC Machine first in notebook computers that could be launched as soon as first half of 1991.