The Alvey ParSiFal Project 

Transputer-Based Parallel Machines

The Alvey Programme was a five-year program of precompetitive collaborative R&Din the UK in mid-80's as a result of the government-initiated Alvey Report, in response to the Japanese 5th Generation Computer Systems project. The Alvey report was published in 1982 by a committee headed by John Alvey (then head of R&D at British Telecom). The Alvey Programme was funded by the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Science Engineering Research Council (SERC) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with £350 million of which £200 million came from the Government and the remainder from industry. The  book "Alvey"  by  Brian  Oakley  and Kenneth Owen (MIT Press) provides information on the Alvey  Programme. 

As part of Alvey, the ParSiFal (Parallel Simulation Facility) project developed various hardware systems, software tools, and example workloads, for transputer-based systems. ParSiFal consortium included Logica Cambridge, Cambridge University, GEC-Marconi Research, FEGS, Inmos, the Polytechnic of Central London and the University of Manchester. Amongst other deliverables, the Manchester team developed the ParSiFal T-Rack computer, a reconfigurable parallel machine consisting of  64 T800-20 Transputers.

The ParSiFal T-Rack has been yet another important moment in the long pioneering history of Manchester Computers. My contributions to the development of the ParSiFal T-Rack included the following:

  • I developed different CSP/occam systems to evaluate and guide the design and architecture of the T-Rack as a workload optimised parallel computer. These included simulations of asynchronous VLSI systems, work which pioneered the use of Transputer-based machines for Distributed Simulation.
  • I developed the system for the configuration of the T-Rack (The Graphical Configuration Assistant - GCA) which included a visual language for this purpose.

Publications on the GCA

  • Theodoropoulos, G., West, A., "Graphical Configuration of Transputer Systems: The Graphical Configuration Assistant", Proceedings of the 1994 Transputer Research and Applications Conference (NATUG-7), Athens, Georgia, USA, October 1994, IOS Press, ISBN 90-5199-1878,  Pages: 203-217.