The Hypercube Project
IMSAI's 1975 advanced computer architecture
based on the Intel 8080
I joined IMS Associates, Inc.
(builder of the IMSAI 8080) in early 1976, and one of the major projects
then in progress was development of the Hypercube, first announced in
a press release dated October 25, 1975 in which the young specialty firm
offered a relatively new and promising concept. The Hypercube was advertised as a four dimensional arrangement of dual 8080 processor "nodes" configured in 2x2x2x2, 3x3x3x3, and 4x4x4x4 arrays, with each node capable of communicating, via shared memory,
with 8 adjacent nodes. This arrangement provided for the first processor in each node to handle system overhead and communications tasks while the second was left free to execute user code. The operating code was to be stored in ROM, and the total system promised unparalleled processing power at a fraction of the cost and overhead of mainframe machines from IBM, Honeywell, Boroughs, and
other giants of the period. The advertised price of these three offerings was $80,000 for the Hypercube II, $400,000 for the Hypercube III (about 1/10th the cost of an IBM 370-168), and $1,280,000 for the Hypercube IV which was to be released in the second quarter of 1976. The concept was legitimized by publication in the December 11, 1975 issue of ELECTRONICS magazine. Ultimately, the
U.S. Navy ordered a Hypercube II for installation in Huntsville, Alabama.
I received several e-mails from former IMSAI Chief
Engineer A. Joseph "Joe"
Killian in 2000, and he related some little-known specifics related the
project. An edited excerpt from those communications follows:
|"There was very little printed on the hypercube. It was
conceived about the same time as the multiprocessor system we sold down
Atlanta way. (By the way, the latter was
patented, #4,096,567 June 20,
1978 U.S. Patent. Maybe copies are obtainable. It includes lots of
early schematics and some code from that effort). The Hypercube was announced
in one or a couple press releases, around the same time as the 108.
There was more interest expressed in the multiprocessor DBMS system, and
resources were tight, so Bill pursued patent and contract on the DBMS
and the Hypercube languished with no further activity."