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The PERQ series (PERQ 1, PERQ 2, 2T1, 2T2, 2T4, PERQ 3) were the first computers deserving the title "workstation".

1974 a couple of guys from Carnegie Mellon university founded the Three Rivers Computer Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and started developing a computer capable of high-resolution graphics. They finally released it in 1979. The PERQ1 sported a 768*1024 (portrait format!) display, a 14" Hard disk (12 MB; 24 MB optional), 5 cooling fans, 8" Floppy drive, and some weird-ass CPU that was neither properly 24 nor 32 bit. It could do bytecode interpretation in hardware (Say Hello to Java!), and was optimized for running Pascal programmes. (Some claim PERQ stands for Pascal Evaluation Real Quick). - Additionally, it had a Zilog Z80 CPU for secondary tasks.

The PERQ came with a single tasking operating system called POS, had up to 1 MB RAM, and a "cursor positioning tablet", that is, a lightpen- style device, as a mouse substitute. It even provided WYSIWYG layout software ("Mint") (that was 1979!!!). Optionally, you could add 10 MBit Ethernet Networking (but it did not yet understand TCP/IP).

Later on, different models appeared with even better graphics (1280 x 1024 in the PERQ 2T1 in 1981!!), larger hard disks (35 MB in PERQ2T1), some strange mouse called "Kriz Mouse", up to 4 MB RAM, and more choices of operating systems.

Over time you got:

  • POS (single tasking, HD smaller than 32 MB)
  • MPOS (multi tasking)
  • Accent (multi tasking, graphical (with windows!!))
  • PNX (a mix of AT&T System III Unix and Unix V7)
  • Spoonix (no idea what that was)
  • QNIX (runs under Accent, based on the famous AT&T System V)
  • FLEX (1979, single user multi tasking, could run Algol 68 in microcode)

PERQ had a brief but complicated history overshadowed by bad components (apparently PSUs caught fire quite often), bad luck, and high prices ($10000 in 1981, + $525 for the keyboard!). - When it went bust in 1985/6 its main distributor in the UK, ICL, continued development up to the PERQ 3 ("ICL 3300"), which bas an altogether different beast (based on Motorola 68020), and flopped in the market (had only about 30 prototypes built).

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