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Foonly, Inc.
FoundedJune 7, 1976; 43 years ago (1976-06-07)[1]
FounderDave W Poole[2]
DefunctApril 19, 1989 (1989-04-19)[1]
United States
Computer hardware
Computer software

Foonly Inc. was an American computer company formed by Dave Poole[2] in 1976,[4] that produced a series of DEC PDP-10 compatible computers, named Foonly F-1 to Foonly F-5.[5]

The first and most famous Foonly machine, the F1, was the computer used by Triple-I to create some of the computer-generated imagery in the 1982 film Tron.[2]


At the beginning of the 1970s, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) began to study the building of a new supercomputer to replace their DEC PDP-10 KA-10, by a far more powerful machine, with a funding of the DARPA.[2] This project was named "Super-Foonly", and was developed by a team led by Phil Petit, Jack Holloway, and Dave Poole.[2][6]
In 1974, the DARPA cut the funding, and a large part of the team went to DEC to develop the PDP-10 model KL10, based on the Super-Foonly project.[2]

But Dave Poole, with Phil Petit and Jack Holloway, preferred to found the Foonly Company in 1976,[4] to try to build a series of computers based on the Super-Foonly project.

During the early 1980s, after the releasing of their first and only F1 supercomputer, Foonly built and sold some F2, F4 and F5 low cost DEC PDP-10 compatibles machines.[4][2][5]

In 1983, after the cancellation of the Jupiter project, Foonly tried to propose a new Foonly F1, but it was eclipsed by the SC Group company and their Mars project, and the company never quite recovered.[2]


List of models[edit]

Foonly F1
ManufacturerFoonly Inc.
DesignerDave Poole[2]
Release date1978[4]
Units sold1[2]
Power5 kW[5] @ 110/220V
Front-endDEC PDP-10 KA-10
Operating systemFOONEX[5]
CPU36-bit processor @ 11.1 MHz[5]
MemoryUp to 18 MB (4096 x 36 bits)[5]

Model MIPS Word Size Frequency Memory Price !bays Power
Foonly F1 4.5 MIPS 36 bits 11.1 MHz 18 MB $700 000 4 5 KW
Foonly F2 0.5 MIPS 36 bits 2.8 MHz 4.5 MB $150 000 1 0.5 KW
Foonly F4 1.4 MIPS 36 bits 8 MHz 9 MB $300 000 1 1 KW
Foonly F4B 1.8 MIPS 36 bits 8 MHz 9 MB $350 000 1 1.5 KW
Foonly F5 0.3 MIPS 36 bits 3.3 MHz 2.25 MB $80 000 0.5 0.8 KW

The Foonly F1[edit]

The Foonly F1 was the first and most powerful Foonly supercomputer, but also the only one being built of its kind. It was based on the Super Foonly project designs, aimed to be the fastest DEC PDP-10 compatible,[2] but using ECL gates rather than TTL, and without the extended instruction set.[7][8] It was developed with the help of Triple-I, its first customer, and began operations in 1978.[4]

The computer consisted of 4 cabinets :

  • One for the CPU
  • One AMPEX for the RAM, with 2MB of core memory[9]
  • A specific cabinet holding the Magic Movie Memory, a 3MB video buffer, used especially to render movie frames[9]
  • One cabinet with tape and disk controllers, and power switches.

It was able to reach 4.5 MIPS.[5]

The F1 is mostly famous to have been the computer behind some of the Computer-generated imagery of the Disney 1982 Tron movie, and also Looker (1981).

After that, the computer was bought by the Canadian Omnibus Computer Graphics company, and was used on some movies, such as TV logos for CBC, CTV, and Global Television Network channels, opening titles for the show Hockey Night in Canada, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Flight of the Navigator (1986), Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future TV series (1987), and Marilyn Monrobot.[10]

Other models[edit]

Unlike the F1, the other models (F2, F3, F4, F5) were

  • built with the slower TTL rather than ECL
  • housed in a single cabinet, rather than four


The F2 was rated as operating at "about 25% of that of the DECSYSTEM-2060."[11]


Standard equipment:[12]

  • Disk drives: 1 - 6 units, with choices of 160 MB Winchester or 300 MB removable
  • Tape drives: 1 - 4 units, with choices of 800, 1600 & 6250 BPI


The Foonly machines, which could run the TENEX operating system, came with a derivative thereof, FOONEX.[5]


Tymshare attempted marketing the Foonly line, using the name "Tymshare XX Series Computer Family"[12] of which the Tymshare System XXVI" was the main focus.[13]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Corporates Wiki, Foonly entry
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The New Hacker's Dictionary, by Eric S. Raymond, Guy L. Steele
  3. ^ Computing facilities for AI, 1981
  4. ^ a b c d e Foonly F2 Brochure, 1981
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Foonly Product Overview Brochure
  6. ^ Dave Dayer, one of the F-1 designers, about Foonly
  7. ^ The Foonly F1: The Computer Behind Tron (1982)
  8. ^ Dave Dyer, one of the principals behind the F1, Dave Sieg website
  9. ^ a b The Foonly F1, Dave Sieg website
  10. ^ Moving Innovation : a History of Computer History, Tom Sito
  11. ^ "The F2 - A New Flexible Alternative" (PDF).
  12. ^ a b Tymshare (1981). The Tymshare XX Series Computer Family. p. 4.
  13. ^ Tymshare's System XXVI. 1981.