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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved

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ACUTIATOR

Developer: Commodore
Year of development: 1990-91

Acutiator was a new Commodore Amiga architecture designed by Dave Haynie between 1990 and 1991. It was the code name for a new system-level architecture for low and high end devices. The Acutiator architecture define the building blocks for a cost effective, high performance 68040-based system. Following Dave Haynie's move from custom to industry standard design, the Acutiator would have been entirely modular, allowing the use of a series of Amiga custom chips. The architectural outline envisions a range of AGA, AA+, and AAA systems using 68040, 060 or even RISC-based processors, all using the Acutiator model. In a similar style to the BoXeR boards of today, the system was to be entirely modular in design with a system board design that was independent of CPU or graphics subsystems. The design was originally to use Dave Haynies' design, the Amiga Modular Interconnect bus, but with the release of the similar PCI bus it swapped to this.

Architectural Specifications, taken from Dave Haynie's PDF document.
Acutiator System Architecture
Motherboard Subsystem
All Acutiator-based models were based around a motherboard subsystem. This would provide basic functions such as DRAM and standard I/O management. A modular Acutiator motherboard would have AMI bus slots, single DRAM bus slot, and a few 'special' I/O bus slots for signals between the motherboard and AMI bus modules.

Motherboard Controller
The main Acutiator bus controller replaces and enhances some of the functions found in Ramsey, Gary and Buster on the A3000.

AMI Bus
The Acutiator Modular Interconnect is a modular bus designed for a range of Motorola 68k processors. It is based somewhat upon the 68040 bus protocols. It can also mesh with alternate processor such as DSP or SCSI (to the right of the above diagram). The slots can be fitted with several coprocessors, all assisting the host processor.

SCSI Processor
For a high performance system, a DMA SCSI interface is required. The Acutiator specifications of the time recommend a NCR 53C710 SCSI-2 controller to be interfaced with the AMI Bus or the processor local bus. The implementation of a SCSI processor would have been a dramatic improvement in comparison to Amiga SCSI, promising 10Mb/S fast synchronous mode. The I/O bus would also support IDE, most likely for a low-end design.

Signal Processor
The choice of AT&T DSP3210 provided a fast processor for performing tasks that would have otherwise slowed the system down, performing tasks 10x the speed of the 68040. The system would have been capable of both audio and video MPEG decoding. The DSP3210 would be integrated with the 68k local bus or the AMI Bus.

Video Compression Processor
True to the Amigas multimedia origins, a video compression processor was under consideration. This would have been interfaced directly with the I/O bus for real-time operations. The choice of which video processor was still under consideration and could have been change repeatedly over the next two years (1991-93).

DRAM bus slot
The bus slot provides for a 64-bit DRAM bus fitting up to 128Mb (remember this is 1991) RAM.

Amiga Chip Subsystem
The Amiga Chip controller device managed all Chip related functions, including data burst, buffering and cache control. Different versions of the chip controller would have been used according to the chipset used. At first it was planned to interface with the AAA chipset but, when it was cancelled moved onto the Hombre design.

Other Motherboard slots
On high-end systems a number of motherboard functions, such as video, will be moved to separate I/O slots. 

What happened to Acutiator?

Towards the end of its life, Commodore had adopted Acutiator as the architecture to drive a high performance next generation Amiga. The vision was finally going to be realized with the release of Hombre, a powerful architecture that may have placed the Amiga back in the limelight again. The company's financial troubles meant that the development almost completely ceased towards the end of 1993. By the time the Amiga was finally bought by Escom during 1995 the architecture was looking out of date and the development was left to die. 
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Last Update: 1/11/2001
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