The Applix 1616 was a kit
computerwith a Motorola 68000CPU, produced by a small company called Applix in Sydney, Australia, from 1986 to the early 1990s. It ran a custom multitasking multiuser operating systemthat was resident in ROM. A version of Minixwas also ported to the 1616, as was the MGR Window System. Andrew Morton, designer of the 1616 and one of the founders of Applix, later became the maintainer of the 2.6 version of the Linux kernel.
Paul Berger and Andrew Morton formed the Australian company Applix Pty. Ltd. in approximately 1984 to sell a
Z80card they had developed for the Apple IIcthat allowed it to run CP/M. This product was not a commercial success, but Paul later proposed they develop a Motorola 68000-based personal computer for sale in kit form.
The project was presented to Jon Fairall, then editor of the Australia and New Zealand electronics magazine
Electronics Today International, and in December 1986, the first of four construction articles was published as "Project 1616", with the series concluding in June 1987. In October and November of 1987, a disk controller card was also published as "Project 1617".
Over the next decade, about 400 1616s were sold [ [http://kerneltrap.org/node/10 KernelTrap.org interview with Andrew Morton] ] .
Applix Pty. Ltd., was in no way related to the North American company of the same name that produced
The main board contains:
Motorola 68000running at 7.5 MHz, or a 68010running at 15 MHz.
kibibytes of Dynamic RAM
* between 64
kibibytes and 256 kibibytes of ROM
* on board bit mapped colour graphics (no "text" mode), with timing provided by a
Motorola 6845CRT controller. The video could produce 320x200 in 16 colours, or 640x200 in a palette of 4 colours out of 16, with a later modification providing a 960x512 monochrome mode. The frame buffer resided in system memory and video refresh provided DRAM refresh cycles. The video output was able to drive CGA, EGA, MGA and multisync monitors.
RS232serial ports using a Zilog Z8530.
parallel portfor Centronics-type printers or general purpose I/O. This was provided by a Rockwell 6522Versatile Interface Adaptor, which was also the source of timer interrupts.
* 4 channel analog/audio output via an 8 bit DAC and multiplexor.
* software audio/analogue input via the DAC and a comparator.
* a PC/XT keyboard interface.
The main board also had four 80-pin
expansion slots. The 1616 shared this backplanewith a platform developed by Andrew Morton for Keno Computer Systems, allowing the 1616 to use expansion boards developed for the Keno Computer Systems platform (primarily the 34010 graphics coprocessor), although the form-factor was different, which left the KCS cards sticking out of the top of the 1616 case!
Disk controller card
The disk controller card contains:
Zilog Z80 processorrunning at 6 MHz
kibibytes of ROM
kibibytes of Static RAM
WD1772 floppy diskcontroller
RS232serial ports using a Zilog Z8530
* An NCR5380
The coprocessor is able to run
ZRDOS(a CP/Mclone), or can act as a smart disk controller.
Memory expansion card
The memory card:
* accepts between 1 and 4
mebibytes of Dynamic RAMin 1 mebibyte increments,
* has an optional
memory management unitimplemented in fast Static RAMand PALs,
* Another NCR5380
SCSIhard disk interface. This SCSI controller was mapped into the 68000's address space, and was considerably faster than the one on the Z80 coprocessor card.
34010 graphics coprocessor card
TMS34010card was developed by Andrew Morton for Keno Computer Systems. The 34010 was a bit-addressable graphics processorwith instructions for two-dimensional graphics primitives and arbitrary width arithmetic operations on pixel data.
User developed cards
* Graham Redwood developed an
Ethernetcard ( Wire-wrapor SpeedWireprototype?).
* Philip Hutchison developed a
Motorola 68030 coprocessorcard (small run of working double sided PCBs).
Other one-off interface cards were developed for specific projects, including a numerically controlled sheet metal spinning machine controller, a
Transputercard, several EEPROM programmers, etc.
1616/OS was initially little more than a powerful monitor, with commands for dumping and modifying memory, loading and saving to tape, and a built in macro assembler and full screen editor. Over time, the operating system gained a hierarchical
file system, preemptive multitasking, support for multiple users with access controls (although no memory protection), lightweight threads, message passing primitives and pipes. Ultimately, the operating system had around 250 system calls, and 78 commands built into the shell. The operating system had enough similarity to Unixthat porting Unix source to the 1616/OS was relatively painless.
Colin McCormack ported
Minixto the 1616. He worked around the lack of a memory management unitwhen fork()ing by copying BSS, heap and stack of the child and parent processes before scheduling each one. The MMU on the RAM expansion card was developed to support Colin's Minix port, although it's unclear if it was ever used for this purpose.
Conal Walshported the CP/Mclone ZRDOSto the Z80-based disk controller card. When operating in this mode, the 68000 acted as a console for ZRDOS, although it was still possible to suspend the connection to ZRDOS, and run 1616 programs, provided they didn't need disk I/O.
Not strictly an operating system, the MGR windowing system run under 1616/OS, but usurped the console video and keyboard, and added virtual tty devices for each window. The MGR port required a video hack to add a higher resolution but monochrome video mode; this was done by replacing a PAL in the video circuit.
Most Unix and Minix programs were able to be ported to 1616/OS. Ports included:
:advent, ar, arc, at, cal, cat, chess (gnu), cmp, comm, compress, conquest, cron, dd, diff, ed, eroff, grep, head, indent, make,
MicroEMACS, more, nroff, roff, sc, sed, sort, split, STEVIE, strings, sum, tail, tar, tee, ularn, uniq, vi, wanderer, wc, xmodem, ymodem, zmodem, zoo
Several messaging or
bulletin boardsystems were written, including Usenetand Fidonetgateways, and many utilities to allow safe shell-level dial-up access.
Several computer languages were supported, including:
* C (HiTech C, and later gcc)
**cscript - an interpreted C-like scripting language created by Andrew Morton. He later added OOP features and renamed it to CS++. CS++ has been ported to Unix, and the source is free to download from Andrew Morton's site: http://www.zipworld.com.au/~akpm/cs++.html
The collection of 1616/OS shareware eventually grew to seventeen 800kB floppies. Included were innumerable small utilities and ported applications from other environments.
The 1616 users group
Pty Ltdstarted holding informal user group meetings in their Sydneystore in 1987. The meetings were held on the second Saturday of the month, and often finished well after midnight after consumption of much pizza. Users brought their latest 1616-related creations to demonstrate and share, and discussion ranged from hardware design, operating system theory, language design, to politics and philosophy.
When the Mortons sold the shop in 199?, the meetings moved to their house at Yerrinbool, in the Southern Highlands, NSW. When the Mortons again moved to Wollongong, the meetings moved with them. Not able to escape the User Group by moving around NSW, the Mortons moved to
Palo Alto, Californiain 2001.
The user group still meets on the second Saturday of every month, although it has been many years since an Applix 1616 has been booted at one, and, everyone being older, the meetings tend to end somewhat before midnight, and pizza is consumed in moderation.
* [http://www.zipworld.com.au/~akpm/1616.html The Applix 1616 Project] Andrew Morton's pages on the 1616
* [http://www.ericlindsay.com/applix/index.htm Applix 1616 manuals]
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