The Web Site to Remember National Semiconductor's Series 32000 Family

Whitechapel Computer Works

Whitechapel Computer Works (WCW) was an english computer manufacturer. Their first product was the NS32016 based workstation MG-1. Follow the link to Wikipedia to read more about WCW.

In October 2015 I got an information that an MG-1 without monitor was offered at ebay. The price of the offer was 1,950.00 £ . Although it is quite an interesting machine the price was in my opinion much too high.

During the visit of Jim Austin's computer museum I saw the MG-1. Now I think the price was high, but maybe not too high ;-)

Unfortunately we were not able to power-on the MG-1. Something with the power supply seemed to be not working.

Fig. 1. The big, black box of the MG-1 looks impressive.

Fig. 2. The main board is huge. A lot of wires can be seen. Obviously there were some design fixes needed.

The memory size of the main board is 2 MBytes made of 256 kbit DRAM chips. They are placed at the left edge. Additional 6 MBytes can be added by up to three expansion cards.

Fig. 3. The memory expansion card offers 2 MBytes of DRAM.

Fig. 4. A closer view of the CPU cluster shows more 48 pin devices not from National Semiconductor.

Fig. 5. Maybe the board was ATE tested but not the design. At the right another big chip from a different manufacturer. This time it is Motorola's MC68121.

Fig. 6. A workstation must have a Mouse. Here it is together with the keyboard.

Tom's running MG-1

Seeing an old computer running is no big event. But it becomes one if the machine presents a feature which other computers do not have. This is the case with the Whitechapel MG-1.

In June 2020 I got a link to a video which shows the boot process of the MG-1. Wow, it runs on a GUI - see Figure 7! The MG-1 is an NS32016 based machine and I was not aware about its graphics capabilities. And even more astonishing is the fact that Tom's machine is running only at 8 MHz ! This catapults the MG-1 from being "nice" to being "exciting". Together with the fact that software is available it was only a short path to the decision that this computer must be included in TRIPUTER!

Fig. 7. A screenshot of the video showing the boot process of the MG-1 using a GUI !

The full video can be seen at Youtube. The screen shows 1024 black and white pixels by 800 lines. Screen refresh is 57 Hz. There is a 60 MHz oscillator on the board near the DRAMs. The frequency is no problem for TTL devices built in FAST technology. For example the 4-bit bidirectional shift register 74F194 can work up to 90 MHz. There is no need for ECL parts. I simply have forgotten how fast TTL could be ;-)

Thank's to Tom who made this eyebrow rising video.

Tom's MG-1 in the Internet

Some days after I saw the video it became even more fascinating. Tom made an Ethernet connection from the MG-1 to a Raspberry Pi. From there he installed a VPN to Amazon, see Figure 8. He told me that no software must be written on the MG-1. Everyting needed was already available.

Fig. 8. The system architecture to link the MG-1 to the Internet.

Fig. 9. I uses PuTTY to access Tom's MG-1. The assembler code is generated by the compiler cc using the -S option.

Tom: thank you very much for this experience!

System description and more

The following items give a detailed insight of the MG-1 :

*) These scans are from the collection of Tony Duell, who also made the hand-drawn schematics after reverse-engineering the components they describe.

There is a plan under way to rebuild the machine with most of the original parts. The job becomes not easy, but feasible with all the available information. Watch this chapter to see any news!

This chapter was last modified on 3 September 2020. Next chapter: M32632/Overview