Nord-100

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The Nord-100 was a 16-bit minicomputer series made by Norsk Data, introduced in 1979. It shipped with the Sintran III operating system, and the architecture was based on, and backwards compatible with, the Nord-10 line.

The Nord-100 was originally named the Nord-10/M (M for Micro) as a bitsliced OEM processor. The board was laid out and finished and tested when they realized that the CPU was far faster than the Nord-10/S. The result was that all the marketing material for the new NORD-10/M was discarded, the board was rechristened the Nord-100, and extensively advertised as the successor of the Nord-10 line. Later, in an effort to internationalize their line, the machine was renamed ND-100.

Performance[edit]

Relative CPU performance
ND-100 ND-100/CE ND-110 ND-110/CX ND-120/CX ND-125/CX
Minimum number of microinstructions per instruction 3[citation needed] 3 1[citation needed] 1
Minimum microinstruction cycle time 150ns[citation needed] 150ns 100ns[citation needed] 100ns
Whetstone MWIPS 0.5[citation needed] 0.5 0.3[citation needed] 0.3

CPU[edit]

The ND-100 line used a custom processor, and like the PDP-11 line, the CPU decided the name of the computer.

  • Nord-100/CE, Commercial Extended, with decimal arithmetic instructions (The decimal instruction set was later renamed CX)
  • ND-110, incrementally improved ND-100
  • ND-110/CX, an ND-110 with the decimal instructions.
  • ND-120/CX, completely redesigned.

The ND-100 line was machine-instruction compatible with the Nord-10 line, except for some "extended instructions", all in supervisor mode, mostly used by the operating system. Like most processors of its time, the native bit grouping was octal, despite the 16-bit word length.

The ND-100 series had a microcoded central processing unit, with downloadable microcode, and was considered a CISC processor.

ND-100

The ND-100 was implemented using medium-scale integration (MSI) logic and bit-slice processors.

The ND-100 was frequently sold together with a memory management card, the MMS. The combined power use of these boards was 90 watts. These boards would usually occupy slots 2 and 3, for the CPU and MMS, respectively. Slot 1 was reserved for the Tracer, a hardware debugger system.

ND-100/CE[edit]

The CE stood for Commercial Extended. The processor was upgraded by replacing the microcode PROM.

It added instruction for decimal arithmetic and conversion, stack instructions, segment-change instructions used by the OS, a block move, test-and-set, and a read-without-cache instruction.

ND-110[edit]

The ND-110 was an incremental improvement over the ND-100.

The ND-110 combined the Memory Management System and CPU, previously separate cards, on one board. The single CPU/MMS board was plugged into the memory management board slot, usually numbered 3. The power consumption was reduced from 90 watts to 60.

The ND-110 made extensive use of PALs and gate arrays - with "semi-custom" VLSI chips.

The ND-110 had three gate arrays:

  • The Micro Instruction Controller, the MIC – also known as RMIC, for "Rask MIC" ("Speedy MIC"). It replaced three 74S482 sequencers and about 30 other ICs.
  • The Arithmetical and Logical Unit gate array (ALU, also known as the "BUFALU"). Replaced four Am2901 bit-slice processors, and some additional registers like the data bus register the general purpose register, and the internal register block.
  • The Micro Address Controller (The MAC, also called RMAC, for "Rask MAC" ("Speedy MAC"). It implemented hardware address arithmetic, which in the ND-100 had been done in microcode.

In addition to the macro-instruction cache memory also found in the ND-100, the ND-110 had a unique implementation of cache memory on the micro-instruction level. The step known as mapping in the ND-100 was then avoided because the first micro-instruction word of a macro-instruction was written into the control store cache.

Unlike the ND-100 CPU, it handled synchronous interrupts as traps, similar to how it was handled by the ND-500.

The control store consisted of 4K x 4 bit 40ns SRAM chips. This meant that the control store was writable. It was loaded at power up and Master Clear from two 32Kx8 bit EPROMs.

The CPU clock and the bus arbitration network were implemented using 15ns PALs.

The main oscillator was a 39.3216 MHz crystal oscillator.

ND-110/CX[edit]

This was the ND-110 with the CX microcode PROM. The added instructions were the same as the /CE.

ND-120/CX[edit]

The ND-120 CPU was a complete reimplementation on an LSI chip (The so-called Delilah chip), and was originally intended to be sold as the ND-1000, to reflect the technology change, which paralleled the change from the ND-500 series to the ND-5000 (Codenamed Samson).

The Samson/Delilah naming scheme may reflect that around the time of the development of the ND-120, it was increasingly clear that the mixed 16/32-bit architecture was a bottleneck for the ND-500(0) architecture; Internal technical documentation used at Norsk Data for the Delilah chip has a drawing of a grinning woman with hair in her clenched fist.