ICL PERQ 1 Workstation

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The PERQ, also referred to as the Three Rivers PERQ or ICL PERQ, was a pioneering workstation computer produced in the early 1980s.

The workstation was conceived by six former Carnegie Mellon University alumni and employees, Brian Rosen, Jim Teter, Bill Broadley, Stan Kriz, Raj Reddy and Paul Newbury, who formed the startup Three Rivers Computer Corporation (3RCC) in 1974. Brian Rosen also worked at Xerox PARC on the Dolphin workstation. The PERQ design was influenced by the original workstation computer, the Xerox Alto. It was the first commercially-produced personal workstation, a prototype PERQ being shown at the 1979 SIGGRAPH conference. The origin of the name "PERQ" is from the word perquisite.

As a result of interest from the UK Science Research Council (later, the Science and Engineering Research Council), 3RCC entered into a relationship with the British computer company ICL in 1981 for European distribution, and later co-development and manufacturing. The PERQ was used in a number of academic research projects in the UK during the 1980s.

3RCC was renamed PERQ System Corporation in 1984. It went out of business in 1986, largely due to competition from other workstation manufacturers such as Sun Microsystems, Apollo Computer and Silicon Graphics.

The original PERQ (also known as the PERQ 1), launched in 1980, was housed in a pedestal-type cabinet with a brown fascia and an 8-inch floppy disk drive mounted horizontally at the top.

The PERQ 1 CPU had a WCS comprising 4k words of 48-bit microcode memory. The later PERQ 1A CPU extended the WCS to 16k words. The PERQ 1 could be configured with 256 kB, 1MB or 2 MB of 64-bit-wide RAM (accessed via a 16-bit bus), a 12 or 24 MB, 14-inch Shugart SA-4000-series HDD, and an 8-inch FDD drive. The internal layout of the PERQ 1 was dominated by the vertically mounted hard disk drive. It was largely this that determined the height and depth of the chassis.

A basic PERQ 1 system comprised a CPU board, a memory board (incorporating the framebuffer and monitor interface) and an I/O board (IOB, also called CIO). The IOB included a Zilog Z80 processor, an IEEE interface, an RS233 port, hard and floppy disk interfaces and Speech synthesis hardware. PERQ 1s also had a spare Optional I/O (OIO) board slot for additional interfaces such as ethernet

A graphics tablet was standard. Most PERQ 1s were supplied with an 8½ ×11-inch, 768×1024 pixel portrait oriented white phosphor monochrome monitor.

The whole system together with the software on 8" floppy disks and manuals were all very kindly donated by Chris Trinder

Manufacturer: ICL
Date: 1981

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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH63966. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.


ICL PERQ 1 Workstation

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