Category Archives: Transputer

Transputer Software

Transputer Software

This is my little pool of Transputer software… while my main interest lies in the area of getting them run (and lots of ’em ;-)), you come to a certain point you actually want them to do something.

Don’t expect megabytes of software here… go over to Rams software section, he collected/rescued nearly everything which was available on the market.


This is a simple DOS tool I’ve written to scan a system for a link-interface (aka C011/012). Similarly to the standard tool ‘ispy’,itest just does a scan on a given port address (default is 0x150) and tries to identify a device behind it (16 or 32 bit Transputer, C004).
Depending on the result, a clear text info and a (DOS) error code is returned, which could be used in a batch file. A sample batch file for scanning the usual ports is included in the archive as well as the source (Turbo-C[++]).

Download itest here


“PePo” is my very, very simple DOS Peek/Poke Tool, to have a quick look into a Transputers RAM. Actually it can be used with any B004 compatible interface which supports the INMOS protocol.
So it also works fine with the NumberSmasher i860, which is the reason, why it insists on a 32bit alignment. It uses the Port Address of 0x150 by default. Define the environment variable “TRANSPUTER” to change this.
Usage is simple: Just call PePo with either “peek” or “poke” and an address you want to read/write from/to, so to read the first five 32bit lines in a Transputers external RAM enter:
 pepo peek 80001000 5
To write something to it enter
 pepo poke 800010000 deadc0de

Download PePo here

Inmos MMS2 archive

To make things easier configuring your C004 network, I prepared an archive for instant use.
It contains some example soft- and hardwire files, an ISERVER.EXE (the program you need to upload code into your Transputer) as well as a batch file to easily start MMS (RUN_MMS.BAT).
Also you will find a folder with INMOS’ pimped version of ANSI.SYS called BANSI (“Better ANSI”), because all INMOS tools make heavy use of ANSI screen control. So put that into your CONFIG.SYS.

Download the MMS2 archive here

The Transputer Tool Kit (TTK)

This is a collection I’ve put together, providing all essential tools to get you started with your brand new/old Transputer equipment. Read this post to learn more about its contents.

Download the TTK archive here

Lies, damn lies and benchmarks

As soon you’re talking about Transputers with people which weren’t there back in 1985 you’ll be asked this very soon: “How fast are these Transputer thingies”? Then there’s a stakkato of “MIPS? Whetstones? Dhrystones?” etc…

As always with benchmarks, the only valid answer is “it depends”. Concerning Transputers that’s even more true.
First, I suggest you read this Lies, Damn lies and benchmarks document from INMOS itself. It pretty much describes the dilemma and all the smoke and mirrors around that matter.

Benchmarks? It depends.

So you’ve read the above INMOS document? As you might saw, it’s full of OCCAM code. That’s the #1 prerequisite to get fast, competitive code (as long you’re not into Transputer assembler). From there it gets worse if you use a C compiler or even FORTRAN…

My little benchmark

Because it scales so well, works with integer as well as floating point CPUs and also runs on the x86 host while using at least the same graphic output routines, my personal benchmark is CSAs Mandelbrot tool (DOS only).
My slightly modified version is part of my Transputer Toolkit, which is downloadable here. You will need that version because I extended the code of this Mandelzoom with a high precision timer (TCHRT, shareware, can’t remove the splashscreen, sorry) when run with the “-a” parameter. You’ll need my provided default “MAN.DAT” file, which contains 2 coordinates to calculate (1st & 2nd run) to get comparable numbers.

So to bench your Transputer system start it with:

 man -v -a

which runs it in VGA mode (640x480x16c), loads the coordinates from “MAN.DAT” and when done presents you with a summary screen like this:


To run it on your hosts x86 CPU, call it with “man -t -v -a”

The Results

Here are my results of the different Mandelzoon runs I made in the past. The blue background marks the host machine results, yellow are the integer timings and green is where the mucho macho things are happening.. well, sort of 😉
There are two columns for the results, the HD timer and the hand-timed runtimes. This is because these are from days before I enhanced the Mandelzoom.
This table will continously updated of course. e.g. the last row is pretty new – what might that system be?  😯

The sources are available in my github repository – so we can collaborate on enhancing and optimizing it.

HD in-programm Timer (s) Hand-Timed
System 1st 2nd 1st run 2nd run Comment
i386DX/33 (0kb L2) 1800 0 1:30:00
0 Canceled 1st run after a quarter of Mandelbrot was done…
i386DX/33 (0kb L2) + 387 588 3316 0:09:48 0:55:16
Am386/40 (0kb L2) + 387 490 2980 0:08:10 0:49:40  21% faster clock but only 10.5% better result
i386DX/33 (128k L2) + 387 274 1547 0:04:34 0:25:47
Am386DX/40 (128k L2) + 387 228 1292 0:03:48 0:21:32
i486DX/33 (8k L1, 0k L2) 01:06.24 368.56 Pretty close to a single T800-20
i486DX2/66 (8k L1, 128k L2) 00:33.72 185.51 Very close to 2x T800-20
Pentium 133 (256kb L2) 00:09.09 00:55.01 About 8x T800-20
Pentium 200 MMX 00:07.13 00:38.06 About 9x T800-20
AMD K6-3+/266 00:06.00 00:32.00 Downclocked, 64k L1, 256kb L2, 1M L3
Core i3-2120 3.3GHz 00:01.66 00:02.13 VirtualBox,1 CPU
1x T425-20 0:00:25 0:02:28   There’s something wrong here – needs re-run
2x T425-20 00:51.55 04:56.60
3x T425-20 00:34.42 03:17.81
4x T425-20 00:25.86 02:28.56
5x T425-20 00:20.74 01:58.96
6x T425-20 00:17.37 01:39.19
9x T425-20 11 62 0:00:11 0:01:02
13x T425-20 8 42 0:00:08 0:00:42
21x T425-20 5 27 0:00:05 0:00:27
25x T425-20 4 23 0:00:04 0:00:23
65xT425 (48x25Mhz, 16x20MHz) 00:02.323 00:08.163 Actually it was 64xT800 and one T425 forcing the calculation to integer
1x T800-20 01:09.13 06:27.18
1x T800-25 55 309 0:00:55 0:05:09 25% higher clockrate should result in 17.5% speedup. Incl comm-overhead that pretty much fits
2x T800-20 00:35.65 03:13.79
3x T800-20 00:23.16 02:09.32
4x T800-20 00:17.43 01:37.04
5x T800-20 00:14.04 01:17.74
6x T800-20 00:11.82 01:04.83
5x T800-25 11 62 0:00:11 0:01:02
9x T800-20 8 40 0:00:08 0:00:40
13x T800-20 5 30 0:00:05 0:00:30
17x T800-25 00:03.8 00:18.59  “1st run” shows that the slow ISA interface is really  getting a bottleneck
21x T800-20 4 18 0:00:04 0:00:18
33x T800-20 00:02.88 00:11.97
65x T800 (32×25, 33x20Mhz) 00:02.21 00:05.74

Tuning the Mandelbrot benchmark

It’s an open secret that the CSA mandelbrot benchmark tool (available in my ‘basic Transputer tools‘ package) is one of my favorite benchmark and test-tool when playing around with my various Transputer toys.
One fine day I thought VGA with more than 16 colo(u)rs  would be nice… and the coding began. First step: Put the original source (well, already enhanced by a timer and some debugging) on github.

The original CSA Mandel program uses the official 640×480 16 color VGA mode (aka 0x12) and uses its own calls for that, i.e. no external 3rd party libs. Very manly 😉 but not very colorful…


So I created the first branch (aka Mandel_3) added a more “modern” command-line options handling and dived into hand-coding VBE (VESA BIOS Extensions) matters. That was very instructive and fun… and the first results showed that I didn’t just got 256 colors now but draw speed was increased, too  😯

Look Mom! More colors:


Running in host-mode (/t) on my P200MMX the initial screen took 6.6s vs 7.1s for 16-colors – so a difference of 0.5s or 7% should be much higher on Transputers, so I thought. And should this mean that bigger Transputer farms had been bottleneck’ed by the actual plotting of pixels?

Because 256 colors and higher resolutions (up to 1280×1024 depending on your VGA cards VESA BIOS) are fine, but even more colors are better, I branched the code a 2nd time (MANDEL_BGI) and replaced the VBE code by a BGI SVGA interface.
While originally Borland only supports VGA, there are 2 BGI drivers written by 3rd party developers which do support SVGA and up to 24-bit colors.
It’s commonly known that BGI is not the fastest graphics interface on planet earth… and the benchmark proved this:

1 7.123 6.623 8.911 6.915
2 38.258 36.635 39.717 37.725

I was hoping the change would have more impact when running the same on my Cube system… well it didn’t:

65x T800 (integer) Orig VESA SVGA SVGA256
1 2.323 2.288 3.940 2.383
2 8.163 8.173 8.181 8.164

So as final conclusion, I will stay with the VBE SVGA drivers included in the V3.x code – it’s a good compromise between overall code/distribution size, comfort and speed.
The original VGA mode (0x12) will stay in the code forever to get comparable benchmark measurements – if you really need CGA/EGA/Hercules, you can always use the 2.x version.