Ardent Titan

Ardent Titan Graphics Supercomputer

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Dr. Erik Sanchez for arranging the donation of this machine by the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University on February 9, 2002.

Dana Computer Incorporated was founded by Allen Michels in Sunnyvale, California in the early 1980s. The company was renamed Ardent Computer in December 1987 because another company named Dana Computer Inc. already existed. Ardent was financed by venture capital and Kubota Ltd., (Kubota paid $50,000,000 for 44% of Ardent). In 1989 Ardent Computer merged with Newton, Massachusetts-based Stellar Computer to become Stardent Computer. The Sunnyvale facility was closed in 1990 and then the Massachusetts facility closed. Kubota Pacific Computer then gained the intellectual property from Stardent. Kubota Pacific Computer became Kubota Graphics Corporation and lasted until February 1, 1995. Several industry notables worked for Ardent including Gordon Bell who was VP of Engineering.

This machine has two CPUs but it can support four. The CPUs are connected to between 8 and 128 Mbytes shared memory by a 256 Mbyte/sec bus. There are ten slots in the backplane, of which six support memory or CPU boards. Each CPU has a MIPS chip scalar unit rated at 16 mips with a 16 Kbyte instruction cache and a 16 Kbyte data cache. The vector unit uses a custom designed chip with divide, a pipelined multiplier, and a pipelined adder/subtracter as independent arithmetic function units. Data is streamed from shared memory directly to the vector registers via 1 store and 2 load pipes. The vector registers are 8192 words long and can be configured in any mode between 8192 registers of one word each to 32 registers each of 256 words. Each word is 64-bits long. The clock cycle time is 62.5 nsec, and each vector processor is rated at 16 Mflops, giving a maximum potential of 64 Mflops. Gather/scatter is supported by the hardware. Memory uses 1 Mbit chips, and each memory board contains 8, 16, or 32 Mbytes. Interleaving is 8-way on odd boards and 16-way on paired boards of the same size. A maximum of four boards can be used. Access rate is 256 Mbyte/sec. A major feature of the Titan is its integrated graphics support. Up to two graphics boards can be attached to the bus and are powerful processors in their own right. All pixel manipulation is done on the graphics boards minimizing traffic between them and the vector processors, which can be employed on related or independent computation to the graphics processing. Graphics is supported by PHIGS+ and CGI as well as Ardent's own software package called Dore' (Dynamic Object Rendering Environment), which handles image representations from wire-frame through flat and smooth-shading to global ray tracing. Dore' was placed in the public domain in 1995 by Kubota Graphics Corporation.

The operating system is fully compatible with the standard AT&T System V.3 UNIX operating system and Berkeley 4.3 Unix with enhancements for communications, high I/O bandwidth, and large applications. Asynchronous reads and a fast file transfer of 1000 Kbyte/sec using disk striping are also supported.

Vectorizing and parallelizing compilers are available for both Fortran and C and generate a common intermediate form for subsequent code generation. Standard Fortran 77 is supported along with extensions compatible with the VAX/VMS extensions. CRAY vectorizing directives are also recognized. The parallelism, which is automatically detected by the compiler, is fine-grained microtasking and several multitasking primitives are also supported. A symbolic debugger, much extended from the basic UNIX debugger, is available. Both 32 and 64-bit floating-point arithmetic is supported, and the arithmetic conforms to the IEEE standard 754.

Standard interfaces to LANs and I/O devices are supported through an I/O board connected to a single bus slot. The I/O board supports two 4 Mbyte/sec SCSI channels, a keyboard, a mouse, Ethernet, 4 RS-232 ports, and 1 parallel port and can be fitted with a 15 Mbyte/sec VME bus adapter for SMD and other devices, such as knob-boxes, tablets, and stereo viewers.

All packaged systems include a 380 Mbyte hard disk, 1/4" cartridge tape, operating system, TCP/IP, C compiler, linker/debugger, Dore', X-windows V.11 and UNIX Navigator, a user interface based on visual agents in the same style as Apple's Macintosh and DRI's GEM, together with a tutorial version of Smalltalk 80, 32 plane graphics subsystem, 19" 1024 x 1024 color monitor, 50 ft video cable, keyboard, mouse, Ethernet connectors, and four RS 232 connectors. The list prices began at $79,000.

The VAXBARN has an operational Ardent Titan. You can watch a video on it here.