In fact, there was one thing in the back of my mind that I neglected to mention but which connects these companies to each other and to Motorola. At the start of the 1980s, ICL was looking to get into the workstation market, so they started looking at machines they could sell and partnerships with emerging vendors (who might also be acquisition targets). Apparently, according to this fascinating resource, some people were developing a 68000-based system in ICL, but when they saw that the Three Rivers PERQ was two years ahead of these internal developments, they decided to "buy Three Rivers or at the very least come to some arrangement with the company". Everyone with money in the UK research community appears to have been wildly excited about the PERQ. Just read around on that site if you want to see people throwing crazy sums of money around trying out hardware!paulb wrote: ↑Tue Sep 21, 2021 10:01 pmIn that respect, it would arguably be more pertinent to contrast HP's adaptation to the microprocessor (and RISC) era with the likes of ICL, as opposed to Acorn who merely needed to find or develop something to make their significantly narrower product range more competitive.
However, when checking out Three Rivers, ICL also checked out Apollo Computer whose products were 68000-based, and there seems to have been much jockeying for position, with contracts being negotiated and renegotiated, executives flying back and forth across the Atlantic, and so on. With the research community pushing for PERQ and with technical comparisons favouring it, ICL ended up going with Three Rivers and not Apollo. Despite the apparent technical edge and supposed suitability of the PERQ, there was then a long process of getting an acceptable Unix solution working on the hardware, with several different approaches including one featuring the Accent kernel which would be the forerunner of the Mach microkernel. As noted in this history, "The clear lead that ICL and Three Rivers had in the market had been completely eroded over the period 1981/2." The chosen Unix solution for the PERQ eventually arrived in 1984.
(I suspect that Accent will also have had an influence on the activities of Acorn's research division in Palo Alto.)
Where this crosses over to HP is that eventually HP acquired Apollo Computer in 1989. So, Apollo managed to last rather longer than Three Rivers (who closed in 1986), and it might be said that the attractions and benefits of "bit-slice microcoded systems" with "different microcodes... for different application areas" faded as microprocessors and their chipsets started to deliver constantly improving performance. By 1989, there were also Apollo workstations using Apollo's own RISC architecture, elements of which apparently fed into HP's PA-RISC architecture (and might have influenced the HP/Intel Itanium architecture).
ICL eventually brought 68000-series systems to market, as part of a parade of different solutions. An assessment of how things ended up makes this remark:
The mainframe mindset may well have inhibited ICL somewhat in this and other endeavours. The One Per Desk, being some kind of worked over Sinclair QL, was something of a clumsy attempt to target what was arguably a specialised market at that time, but despite also being a 68000-series machine, it perhaps deserves its own thread, just like the Communicator did!Some saw the future as the combined phone and PC on the desk (One Per Desk). Others still believed in the mainframe market surviving.