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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary (also found in English - Vietnamese, English - English (Wordnet), French - Vietnamese)
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A legendary tragic failure, the archetypal Hacker Dream Gone
Wrong. Mars was the code name for a family of PDP-10
compatible computers built by Systems Concepts (now, The SC
Group): the multi-processor SC-30M, the small uniprocessor
SC-25M, and the never-built superprocessor SC-40M. These
machines were marvels of engineering design; although not much
slower than the unique Foonly F-1, they were physically
smaller and consumed less power than the much slower DEC KS10
or Foonly F-2, F-3, or F-4 machines. They were also
completely compatible with the DEC KL10, and ran all KL10
binaries (including the operating system) with no
modifications at about 2--3 times faster than a KL10.
When DEC cancelled the Jupiter project in 1983, Systems
Concepts should have made a bundle selling their machine into
shops with a lot of software investment in PDP-10s, and in
fact their spring 1984 announcement generated a great deal of
excitement in the PDP-10 world. TOPS-10 was running on the
Mars by the summer of 1984, and TOPS-20 by early fall.
Unfortunately, the hackers running Systems Concepts were much
better at designing machines than at mass producing or selling
them; the company allowed itself to be sidetracked by a bout
of perfectionism into continually improving the design, and
lost credibility as delivery dates continued to slip. They
also overpriced the product ridiculously; they believed they
were competing with the KL10 and VAX 8600 and failed to reckon
with the likes of Sun Microsystems and other hungry startups
building workstations with power comparable to the KL10 at a
fraction of the price.
By the time SC shipped the first SC-30M to Stanford in late
1985, most customers had already made the traumatic decision
to abandon the PDP-10, usually for VMS or Unix boxes. Most of
the Mars computers built ended up being purchased by