This month sees the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, as well as the launch of Intel’s 32-bit Extended Industry Standard Architecture chip set. The link between the two events concerns people’s attitudes towards revolutions: in short Micro Channel Architecture is seen as a nasty, bloody sort of proprietary coup attempt by […]
This month sees the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, as well as the launch of Intel’s 32-bit Extended Industry Standard Architecture chip set. The link between the two events concerns people’s attitudes towards revolutions: in short Micro Channel Architecture is seen as a nasty, bloody sort of proprietary coup attempt by IBM, while Extended Industry Standard Architecture styles itself as a proponent for freedom of choice and safe evolution, enabling upgraders to carry forward to the new machines all the expansion boards they bought for their AT bus machines instead of having to replace them with more expensive Micro Channel boards. Leastways these were the stereotypes being peddled at the first European conference held by the EISA Consortium yesterday. The consortium is composed of nine hardware manufacturers: AST Research, Compaq, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, NEC Information Systems, Olivetti, Tandy, Wyse Technology, and Zenith Data Systems. All were pleased to welcome the arrival of Intel’s 82350 EISA bus chip set which has been sampled since late May and will be in volume production in September. Following the availability of this chip set, all nine members of the consortium expect to announce EISA machines in November and December, when they will ship is another question, however, and one that remained unanswered. Undaunted by such details, Bragottii, the managing director of Olivetti Europe, stressed that aside from the nine hardware manufacturers driving the EISA crusade, 200 active industry players were investing in it, and 80% of personal computer users are behind it – this last figure is presumably culled from the worldwide AT-bus user base. However, when one considers that backward compatibility with such systems will probably mean little more than sticking with the same vendors for new 32-bit software, and that Micro Channel Architecture is now also up for licence, and will offer similar, if not better, 32-bit technology, this figure for user-backing begins to look a bit contrived. In these terms the EISA consortium appears to be little more than an industrial bargaining hand restraining IBM’s moves towards a new proprietary architecture. On the other hand, it might prove more fruitful to see the EISA bus as a late but serious challenge to Sun’s Sparcstations as a platform for Unix. In the meantime three members of the EISA consortium – Olivetti, Tandy and Wyse Technology – are hedging their bets, and have developed (or are working on) Micro Channel machines. In these revolutionary times some companies in the EISA consortium are clearly intent on being more equal than others.