Archive for December, 2015

December 11th, 2015 ~ by admin

Akatsuki: Dawn rises again at Venus

Akatsuki - Though by now its main antenna is probably brown or black from being baked by the sun

Akatsuki – Though by now its main antenna is probably brown or black from being baked by the sun – Powered by a NEC uPD55117B-018 16-bit processor.

Akatsuki, Japanese for Dawn, was launched in May of 2010 for a journey to the morning star, Venus, on a JAXA H-IIA rocket. The H-IIA flight computer runs on a space rated version of the NEC V70 32-bit processor, running the NEC RX616 RTOS.  A processor significantly faster than that of the interplanetary probe it was launching.

“it will have a short cruise to Venus, entering its long, elliptical orbit in December. Its mission should last several years. “

In space, things don’t always go as planned…

On December 7th Akatsuki entered orbit around Venus, December of 2015 rather than 2010.  Due to a valve in the fuel pressurization system not opening all the way the orbital insertion engine ran much too lean on its attempt to enter orbit, causing it to overheat and catastrophically fail.  This left the probe on a heliocentric orbit, moving away from Venus.  The Japanese Space Administration (JAXA) was not deterred, Akatsuki’s orbit would eventually meet up with Venus again, almost exactly 5 years later.  JAXA determined they could use the probes attitude control thrusters, which feed off the same fuel tank as the failed main thruster, to insert Akatsuki into a highly elliptical, yet still useful orbit.  Had the Attitude control system used a separate fuel system (which is actually the more common design method) this would not have been possible, as it would take a relatively large amount of fuel, fuel that was available on Akatsuki due to the main engine failing and being shut down before its burn was completed.  It should be noted that such a maneuver had never previously been even proposed, let alone attempted.  There was however another small problem…

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CPU of the Day

December 6th, 2015 ~ by admin

T-5 Delivers DRAM’s – Intel Open House ’83

Memorabilia_Intel_OpenHouse-T-5

Intel DRAM – Likely a 2186 64K device given out during the 1983 Open House

In 1983 memory products were still Intel’s largest source of revenue.  Intel’s first product, the 3101, was a RAM, and until the memory trade wars of the early 80’s continues to be Intel’s bread and butter.  Fab 5, opened in Aloha, Oregon in October of 1978 and its primary product was memories.  EPROM’s, EEPROM’s, SRAM, and DRAM were all fab’d here, then shipped overseas, and back to Oregon for testing.  The primary testing facility for the Memory Products division was the T-5 site in Hillsboro, just a few miles from Fab 5.  T-5 tested both commercial, and military memory products up until 1985, when Intel exited the DRAM market in its entirety.

Intel Open House Chip form 1981 - Likely a 214x SRAM

Intel Open House Chip from 1981 – Likely a 214x SRAM

These OPEN HOUSE sample chips were handed out to employees and visitors at the test site during its annual open house in 1983 (apparently in many of the open houses at that time).  Most likely this chip is a 2186A integrated RAM, a 64K DRAM made on a 1.2 micron HMOS-III process.  The 2186 was a new design for 1985 and provided a DRAM with the same pinout as a 2764 EPROM.

Just like T-5, Intel DRAMs are no more, though the Fab 5 they were made in, which was closed in 1998, was reopened to increase Flash production, the only memory product Intel still makes.  Intel’s exit of the DRAM business was certainly a risky decision back then, but it turned out to be one of the best they made.  They blamed the exit on the rapidly falling prices do to ‘dumping’ of DRAM’s and EPROMs (sold below cost) from Japanese semiconductor companies, but this allowed them to exit the DRAM business before DRAM’s turned into the commodity they are today, with margins being almost non-existent.  This allowed Intel to focus time, resources (fab capacity was in very short supply then) and money on other products, namely microprocessors and microcontrollers, they very products that have taken Intel from a one of many semiconductor company to world leader.  Perhaps they can thank those same Japanese companies they were so upset about back in 1985 for where they are today.