Convergent Technologies

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Convergent Technologies
IndustryComputer hardware
Founded1979
FoundersAllen Michels
Bob Garrow
Kal Hubler
Ben Wegbreit
FatePurchased by Unisys in 1988
ProductsMulti-processor computer
Work stations
Personal computers

Convergent Technologies was an American computer company formed by a small group of people who left Intel Corporation and Xerox PARC in 1979.[1] Among the founders were CEO Allen Michels, VP Engineering Bob Garrow, head of marketing Kal Hubler, and operating system architect Ben Wegbreit.[2][3] The company was purchased by Unisys in 1988.

History[edit]

In 1982, Convergent formed the Data Systems Division to focus on a multi-processor computer known as the MegaFrame, "the first system upgradable from super-minicomputer to mainframe". The MegaFrame ran a UNIX System III-derived operating system called CTIX on up to eight Motorola 68010 processors. The MegaFrame division was headed by Ben Wegbreit; Steve Blank, in charge of division marketing, went on to found several Silicon Valley startups, including E.piphany, and as of 2012 lectures on technology startups at Stanford University and elsewhere; Jon Huie was in charge of Software; Richard Lowenthal was in charge of Hardware.

Convergent also formed the Advanced Information Products Division, with Matt Sanders taking lead of the new division.[4] He was tasked with developing a computer for the low-end market (price target $499).[5] The "Ultra" team was assembled and their pioneering mobile computing product, the WorkSlate, released in November 1983.

Michels and three other executives of the company left in 1985 to form The Dana Group.[6] Shortly after, Convergent purchased 40% of Baron Data Systems for $14.6 million.[7] Then purchased the remainder of Baron in May 1987, for $33 million.

Convergent reached an agreement to acquire 3Com in March 1986, but the merger was called off at the last moment.

Unisys bought Convergent Technologies in 1988,[8] after which Convergent Technologies became Unisys' Network Systems Division.

Products[edit]

IWS[edit]

Convergent's first product was the IWS (Integrated WorkStation) based on a 5 MHz Intel 8086 microprocessor, with optional Intel 8087 math coprocessor. The WS-110 integrated the processor, memory I/O, and video display control boards along with two Multibus slots into a unique "lectern" situated next to the monitor and integrated into a common base. The WS-120 placed these boards along with five Multibus slots in a floor-standing enclosure. Floor-standing mass storage units would also be integrated into a system. NCR sold the IWS as the WorkSaver 100.

AWS[edit]

The next product was a cost-reduced desktop version called the AWS (Application WorkStation) utilizing an Intel 8275 CRT controller instead of the custom video board used in the IWS. The IWS and AWS were compatible and ran in an RS-422 clustered environment under a proprietary operating system known as Convergent Technologies Operating System (CTOS).[9] The AWS was sold by Burroughs as the B20 (models B21 and B22), by Bull as the Corail B4000, by Prime Computer as the Prime Producer 100 (a word processing workstation), and by NCR as the WorkSaver 200.

NGEN[edit]

A Burroughs B25 computer, which is a rebadged NGEN

The AWS was replaced by the modular NGEN (New or Next Generation) workstation, based on the Intel 80186 microprocessor. To Burroughs (and Unisys) users the NGEN was known as the B25 and to Prime Computer users as the Prime Producer 200. Bull sold the NGEN as the Questar 400, and NCR sold it as the WorkSaver 300.[10] The NGEN was also sold with an MS-DOS version running on top of CTOS. It was sold by McDonnell Douglas Computer Systems Company (previously known as Microdata Corporation) who included a copy of their Pick-based Reality Database system which ran on MS-DOS. Datapoint released the NGEN as the Vista-PC running MS-DOS.[11] Mohawk Data Sciences released the NGEN-based MDS HERO, and Telenorma/Bosch released the Isy.[12]

Later models - the NGEN Series 286, 386, and 386i - kept pace with Intel CPU development through the Intel 80386. (A successor to the NGEN called the SuperGen and based on the Intel 80486 was introduced in 1993 by Unisys, approximately 5 years after it had acquired Convergent Technologies.)

AT&T UNIX PC[edit]

Convergent developed the first Motorola 68010 OEM UNIX product for AT&T, the AT&T UNIX PC, and integrated a number features (Stream-based I/O, Multinational Language Support) to the Intel AT&T UNIX base (SVR3.2). Convergent also offered this machine directly as the S/50.

AT&T Personal Terminal 510[edit]

Convergent developed the integrated voice/data Personal Terminal 510A (analog) and 510D (digital) for AT&T, introduced in March 1985. The 510A was for use with POTS lines, and the 510D for use with the AT&T System 75/85 PBX. The terminals featured a unique gel-based 9" touch screen providing a soft, cushiony feel.

MiniFrame, MightyFrame[edit]

Convergent used the Motorola 68010 in their MiniFrame, and Motorola 68020 and 68040 in their VME-based MightyFrame systems (S/80, S/120, S/221, S/222, S/280, S/320, S/480, S/640), all running CTIX.[13]

Motorola resold the MiniFrame as the System 6300 under the Four-Phase Systems Series 6000.[14] Motorola/Four-Phase pioneered development of international character support for Unix platforms for their EMEA business using the CTOS/CTIX equipment.

MegaFrame[edit]

The MegaFrame (S/1280) consisted of up to eight 10 MHz Motorola 68010-based "Application Processors" running CTIX talking to 8 MHz Intel 80186-based I/O processor boards each running their own scaled-down versions of CTOS: File Processor ("fpCTOS"), Cluster Processor ("cpCTOS"), Terminal Processor ("tpCTOS"), and SMD/Storage Processor ("spCTOS"). Each processor had its own RAM: 512 KB to 4 MB for the Application Processors, and 256 KB to 768 KB for the I/O processors. Up to 36 boards could be installed in a system: six in the base enclosure, with another six per expansion enclosure (five expansion enclosures maximum).[15] The MegaFrame was resold by Burroughs/Unisys as the XE550 running CENTIX and BTOS, and originally sold as the XE520 without the Application Processors. Motorola resold the MegaFrame as the System 6600.

WorkSlate[edit]

Released in November 1983, the WorkSlate, an early tablet-style personal computer system, was designed and marketed by Convergent, with the industrial design done by Mike Nuttall. It was 1" thick and the size of a sheet of paper. Its primary user interface was a spreadsheet. The WorkSlate utilized a mini-cassette for voice- and data-recording and for loading a range of pre-packaged add-on applications called TaskWare to handle jobs such as the management of personal expenses, calendars, etc. At that time there was no facility to download such "apps" over the Internet, so they were available only on the mini-cassettes.[16] The WorkSlate was developed in highly compressed twelve-month development cycle which resulted in inadequate testing and a sub-optimal product which sold poorly.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peddie, Jon (2013). The History of Visual Magic in Computers: How Beautiful Images are Made in CAD, 3D, VR and AR. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781447149323. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  2. ^ Lammers, Susan M. (1986). Programmers at work, Volume 1. Microsoft Press. ISBN 9780914845713. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  3. ^ Mini-micro Systems, Volume 13. Cahners Publishing Company. 1980. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  4. ^ Robertson, Barbara. "California Hardware". Byte Magazine (November 1983): 58.
  5. ^ Katz, Barry M. (September 4, 2015). Make It New: A History of Silicon Valley Design. p. 67.
  6. ^ McEnaney, Maura (20 October 1986). "Michels sees evolving niche for personal supercomputer". Computer Industry. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  7. ^ McEnaney, Maura (18 November 1985). "Convergent invests in Baron". Computer World. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  8. ^ Pollack, Andrew (11 August 1988). "Company News - Unisys Says It Will Buy Convergent". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  9. ^ Petrosky, Mary (20 July 1987). "CTI strivers for diversity". Network World. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  10. ^ "NCR introduces line of desktop workstations". ComputerWorld. August 27, 1984.
  11. ^ "Datapoint joins micro fray with 16-bit, MS-DOS entry". Computerworld: 4. June 11, 1984.
  12. ^ "Telefonbauer TN steigt in Datentechnik ein". Computerwoche (in German). IDG Business Media GmbH. 8 March 1985. Retrieved 2021-10-13.
  13. ^ Shea, Tom (28 May 1984). "Convergent Shipping Miniframe". InfoWorld. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  14. ^ "Four-Phase Series 2000, 4000, 5000, and 6000" (PDF). Datapro Research Corporation. February 1985.
  15. ^ http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/convergent/68K/megaframe/B-02-00129-00_MegaFame_Product_Overview_Jan85.pdf
  16. ^ Stern, Marc (16 April 1984). "Review:WorkSlate". InfoWorld. Retrieved 13 November 2017.

External links[edit]


This article is based on material taken from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing prior to 1 November 2008 and incorporated under the "relicensing" terms of the GFDL, version 1.3 or later.