Language-specific CPUs was Re: uIEC/SD == AWESOME!

Rick Bensene rickb at bensene.com
Thu Jan 1 11:51:35 CST 2009


Allison wrote:

> Memory says there was a Wang machine that directly executed Basic.
> 
Yes, the Wang 2200-series machines used a microcoded architecture that
implemented a BASIC interpreter as a native "language".  These machines
were an extension of the architecture developed for the Wang 700-series
electronic calculators.  It's an interesting twist of fate.  Wang hadn't
intended to make an advanced scientific calculator, as the thought was
that their 300-Series calculators were all that they needed.  Dr. Wang
felt that the important market was in computers, and had a development
effort underway to make a computer that was to compete with IBM's
System/360.  It was Dr. Wang's intent to have Wang become the largest
computer company in the world.  However, when Hewlett Packard introduced
the HP 9100A calculator, it immediately took most of the market share
away from Wang in the scientific calculator marketplace, where Wang was
the leader. This quickly put Wang into a cash crunch, as they had a hard
time selling the 300-Series machines.   The efforts to develop a
computer were quickly re-targeted -- it was mandated that the basic
computer design (a microcoded architecture) was to be refitted to serve
as an advanced programmable calculator.  This became the Wang 700-Series
calculators (as well as follow-on machines such as the 500-Series,
600-Series, and later 400- and C-Series machines).  While the 700-Series
machines did help rescue Wang's calculator business, the real savior for
Wang's stockholders was the introduction of Wang's word processing
equipment, also based on much the same microcoded architecture as the
700-Series calculators.  As it became clear that calculators were
becoming a commodity market, driven mainly by semiconductor
manufacturers who had the resources to fabricate LSI calculator
chipsets, and later single-chip implementations, Wang Labs revisited
building a computer at a much "smaller" level than going after IBM.  The
2200-series BASIC computers (although Wang initially marketed them as
"calculators") were the result.  The architecture went from computer, to
calculator, and back to computer, with sidelines into word processors.

Check out Jim Battle's http://www.wang2200.org .  There's even an
emulator of the 2200 that actually runs the actual 2200 microcode!

Rick Bensene
The Old Calculator Museum
http://oldcalculatormuseum.com







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