There is a coterie of small US companies that seems to be much more interested in doing challenging things than growing big, and one such must be Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based Formation Inc, which really put its head on the block in the early part of the decade when it launched a line of 4341-compatible […]
There is a coterie of small US companies that seems to be much more interested in doing challenging things than growing big, and one such must be Mount Laurel, New Jersey-based Formation Inc, which really put its head on the block in the early part of the decade when it launched a line of 4341-compatible processors. Little has been heard of Formation for years, but the company is suddenly back in the news with $18m subcontract from IBM itself as part of its Federal Aviation Administration flight control system revamp. The company will supply peripheral adaptor module replacement units designed to collect flight and radar data, and convert the data into formats for IBM 3083 mainframes – note that last generation machines are regarded as quite good enough for preventing our airliners from bumping into each other. The systems will eventually be used by the Federal Aviation Administration as host machines at 25 different en route air traffic control sites across the US. The adaptor units will also be designed to provide compatibility with the Federal Aviation Administration’s existing host systems – antique IBM 360-based 9020Ds. Formation aims to start shipping the units in 1990, and says initial requirements will be met by 1992. Meanwhile, Formation is hoping to gain business in the UK, on the assumption that IBM wins a similar contract from the Civil Aviation Authority, whose own 9020D – its a complex of 360/65s and 360/50s – was in the news almost every day a couple of years ago as air traffic delays were blamed on it breaking down. Nineteen-year old Formation – and forecasting sales of only $20m this year now focuses on developing systems and sub-systems for system manufacturers and integrators including Citicorp and Unisys. It also plans to launch a number of proprietary VME boards, including IBM Token-Ring and 3370 disk drive channel attachment boards, later this year. However, the company stopped manufacturing its F/4000 series of 4341-compatible small mainframes about five years ago.