back to article It's only a game: Lara Croft won't save enterprise tech – but Jet Set Willy could

The twin planets of business and consumer technologies have been locked in a game of Pong for decades. The Apple II was aimed at hobbyists, but catalysed the revolution that put a PC on every office desk. The GUI needed hardware so expensive it could only come in boxes with corporate-sized price tags, until the Atari ST and …


    1. Simon Harris

      Re: Striplights in a meeting have never dissolved a hangover for me

      My problem is that a day of quiet hungover coding is then followed by two days of noisy expletive laden debugging.

  1. SVV

    but Jet Set Willy could

    I've known this for years - if you time your jump just right in The Bathroom, it takes you into a hidden fully featured ERP application.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: but Jet Set Willy could

      And if you time your jump over Entrance to Hades wrong, you're condemned to coding in JavaScript and PHP for the rest of your lives.

  2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Not really sure what this article is trying to achieve, but if it's trying to say that fpgas can replace legacy systems that may be end of life..

    That may be the case in the event that the legacy system consists of hardware that is no longer manufactured, and doesn't have a modern equivalent. But the costs of implementing (including testing) something like that using FPGAs may mean it's actually cheaper to replace the entire system.

    I have limited knowledge of FPGAs, and have never programmed one. However, my understanding is they are frequently used in low manufacturing run PCBs, and often for prototyping designs that will ultimately be implemented using other means.

    Much as I like the Spectrum Next (in fact, I'm considering buying one to mess around on), I think that is a good example of a PCB with a low manufacturing run (likely to be a few thousand, rather than the millions an xbox or PlayStation would require..

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "the real lines drawn on the dry-wipe whiteboards over endless cups of indifferent coffee as last night's hangover dissolves under the strip lights of endless meetings"

    You are jack Dee and I claim my £5.

  4. spold Silver badge

    So I guess we can look forward to...

    Next generation Genuine People Personalities? Or Artificially Intelligent Sexbots? Or a combination?

    >>Outside digital signal processing, where the basic mathematical blocks can be highly refined and reused, FPGAs haven't caught fire.

    Please be sure to include a fire extinguisher with the sexbots anyway.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: So I guess we can look forward to .... Terminal Alienation ‽ *

      Please be sure to include a fire extinguisher with the sexbots anyway. ....spold

      That's more passion killer than desire thriller, spold ........ and you don't need to be an Einstein or Ayn Rand to realise the latter a much more exciting driver for actions undertaken and planned for AI NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive Erudition of Earthed Systems in Existential Transition and Transfer to Virgin Virtual Space Centres ....... where one can frolic and play all the way in every way all day everyday if one be better than just good and adored. :-)

      As Celestial Centres for Virtual Space Virgins they can easily appear to have no peer or competitive opponent in the Phorms of Phishes in Cloudy Sees Quenching Madness and Mayhem with CHAOS and ITs Almighty Creativity.

      How else to Present Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems Sharing Future Paths Taken in Service of All Those ACTivated and on ACTive Duty or Currently Still and/or Still Yet to Be Deployed and Employed and Enjoyed/EMPowered and Enjoined for Virtually Remote ACTivation or Self Actualisation. [That latter course and facility is much more for that on those on the super fast broad band casting tracks excelling in ploughing one's own fields with fertile furrows for fruits and bounty to discover and grace with life-giving harvests.]

      Surely you don't expect engraved written instructions to be delivered for despatch? That's so quaint olde time ancient school and things have move on greatly since thon and then.

      * .... A not inconsequential read which lurks in the super stealthy steady top secret non-state undergrowth of TLDR :-) .....

      Do yourself a favour ... give all of it your attention and you will certainly see everything is delivered freely for future capitalisation and systems monetisation. The Suppliers of that Extremely Particular and Adorably Peculiar of Provisions are Many Time Over Richer Than Croesus and a Better Friend and Partner there be None.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: So I guess we can look forward to .... Terminal Alienation ‽ *

        And look at what El Reg informs is taking a quantum leap of faith into an extraordinarily active field ......and most probably expecting a following leading with Brothers and Sisters, Grand Vizards and Mothers Superior doing their righteous and virtuous In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti thing, for both that which works and for those who work in Praise of the Mysterious Ways .........

        Brave New Bold Worlds Love a Dogged Trier.... and aint that the Honest Gospel Truth. ‽ :-)

        Bravo, the Vatican Academy for Life ..... and who else but an Old Nick type would not wish to agree to abide by and champion the six principled fundamental elements of good innovation lauded there.

        And yes, that is Knights Templar Round Table Crusader Territory too.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Tail Up

          Re: I guess....we can

          well, finally, SomeTHInG like this should have been happened one sunny day

          you certainly look informed, Doc

          "e". envy

        4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Earthly Interventionism ‽

          And .... be the following evidence of disciples in such an extraordinary active field revealed and revelling as fellow travellers in friendly competition rather than being misrepresented and framed as a crazed opposition ‽ ..... Christians Fund AI Mentalists

          And .... for those of an atheistic and/or agnostic disposition, most likely also to be mirrored and cloned for almighty leads with pioneering works from an Innovative Skolkovo Type Operations Centre ........ and there be quite a few of those lurking around the globe nowadays ...... hiding their lights behind bushels for progress with a stealthy secret advantage?

          Such appears to be in many the human, an inhuman trait that fears what is able to be offered both with and/or without Total Command and Absolute Control.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Earthly Internetionism


            Who runs this beat? Is there answer, or are there answers? (-:

  5. c1ue

    AS400 by any other name

    Not at all clear to me why this article was written.

    If we're going to talk about 8 bit CPUs like the ZX Spectrum - modern systems can perform software emulation to replace legacy DOS, Windows and Mac. All you then need is a copy of the software and some form of pipe to pull the data out of the legacy box.

    I'd think the real problem lies with Big Iron systems that fundamentally don't work like x86 architectures, i.e. the PowerPC AS400 systems.

    While you can software emulate PowerPC, the emulation cannot replace the hot swap, highly parallel and other architectural features of AS400 OS+PowerPC systems - and it isn't entirely clear to me that an FPGA could easily do the same either. This is disregarding potential copyright/patent issues IBM may have.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: isn't entirely clear to me that an FPGA could easily do the same

      An FPGA simply replaces loads of ancient logic boards, or a smaller number of VLSI boards.

      If you have the equivalent gate design of an AS400, or Power PC, you CAN perfectly implement the CPU in an FPGA. Or with more expensive FPGAs and older hardware, probably most or all of the PCB that the CPU lived on if it was a single chip.

      What you need is the actual design and then it can be re-implemented as an FPGA.

      If you debug it, then if you have 10,000 to a 1,000,000 customers (depending on sale price and complexity) you can output the files for an ASIC from a chip foundry.

      It's extremely hard to replace SW by an FPGA, (unless it's pure DSP) because you have to design the HW from scratch. It's pretty simple for an FPGA guru to re-implement any HW (CPU or other) if the original design is available.

      Conversely a simple slow VLSI chip can be implemented in SW on a PIC, ARM, Desktop OS etc, simply by having a spec of what it does, no need to know how it was implemented. Such as display/Keyboard interfaces on old machine tools, gadgets or radio sets. Older DMM chips or frequency counter chips can easily be done on a PIC.

  6. Simon Harris

    FPGAs are cheating for legacy hardware...

    making it out of individual transistors is the proper way to do things!

  7. juice


    As c1ue mentioned, I'm really not sure how the Spectrum Next is a potential example for how to "save" legacy enterprise tech.

    The SN has been a labour of love which has arguably been achieved thanks to two things:

    1) The fact that the ZX Spectrum is arguably the best-documented computer every made, thanks in no small part to it's incredibly simple/cheap hardware, the millions of kids who played on it and the fact that millions of clones and variants were produced in places like Brazil and the USSR, long after it's commercial death in the UK

    People have spent decades researching the quirks of the ZX Spectrum and the many unofficial variants and peripherals, and have then documented them and built *software* emulators to handle them. The SN team have done a fantastic job of both producing their new hardware and successfully bringing it to market, but they had a very strong base to build from.

    2) Nostalgia

    Arguably, people aren't buying the Spectrum Next for compatibility, save ancient processes or develop new ideas in their shed. And I'd guess that most aren't buying it so that they can fire up TR-DOS and try out some of the wierd Russian games and demos, or even the modern multi-colour "Next-exclusive" titles. They're buying it because it has a case which looks like the original, and because they're old enough to splash out a bit of cash on a bit of kit they can plug into their TV and use to bore their grandkids with tales of how amazing video games were back in the day.

    I very much doubt there's anyone out there who has the same love of enterprise systems, or who would want to splash out a lump of cash for the chance to sit at a desk and relive the "good old days" of sitting in Accounting. For instance, you don't see anyone making an effort to bring ICL's One Per Desk (perhaps ironically, powered by a Sinclair QL) back to life!

    And even if by some chance there is a group of people who are obsessed with their enterprise hardware, said pool of devotees will be far smaller than for the ZX Spectrum, and the amount of documentation and research that's available to build on will therefore also be far smaller.

    As such, no-one's going to want to build hardware systems to replace or simulate enterprise systems, except possibly a bank or other FTSE-100 company with a few billion to spare and a desperate need to maintain a critical legacy system which for some reason can't be ripped out and replaced with a Raspberry Pi.

    Instead, a better example of how legacy enterprise systems might be saved would be something like MAME, where people are striving to emulate as much legacy hardware as possible; it's arguably driven by nostalgic in the same way as the SN, but there's equally also a desire to both strive for accuracy and cover as many systems as possible. Gotta catch 'em all...

  8. Muscleguy

    Cross species DNA swap you say?

    Us Biologists call that Lateral or Horizontal Gene Transfer when Nature does it and it is so common you can fall over when looking for something else. I did, I was trying to find the end of a chicken gene (using 3' RACE for those who know) and threw another set of possible clone sequences at the database (I BLASTed them) and back they came. One stood out, for the paucity of results. Most had pages of possible matches across the then sequenced tree of life. This one had three hits, two human (an EST meaning it turned out in some context and the Human Genome) and Anopheles Gambiae, the malaria mosquito.

    No chimp sequences, no mouse or other mammal, no other birds, no amphibia or fish or other insects, nothing from Drosophila fruit flies (another dipteran).

    So we had two close commensals, humans and chickens/SE Asian Jungle Fowl and a vector, the mosquito which links us. The gene was a protease so likely viral in origin. So you, me and them are all genetically modified.

    The poster child for LTP is the humble sea squirt. Which is chordate (a stem vertebrate) even it spends adult life as a sessile filter feeder. The group name is the Tunicates as the adults wrap themselves in a leathery tunic to protect them. This tunic is curious though as it is made of cellulose, plant fibre. No algal symbionts could be found. The genome sequence though revealed the 8 gene synthesis pathway for cellulose in the genome. It had been pinched from a seaweed a few million years ago. EIGHT genes and a full synthesis pathway at that.

    They missed a trick though. If they had pinched the chloroplasts from the seaweed they could have given up the filter feeding and become a vertebrate plant soaking up the sunlight for food.

    If anyone is wondering the closest relative of vertebrates and seaweed is something single cellular like a paramecium, just before some of them failed to fully digest a meal of blue-green cyanobacteria and turned them into chloroplasts and become the first algae. Photosynthesis evolved once and the higher organisms (non bacteria) simply pinched it from the bacteria. Chloroplasts are like mitochondria. Former free living organisms which retain their own dna.

  9. Blackjack Silver badge

    Sadly, Is not Jet Set Radio

    Now that is a revival I would get behind.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Da, it chains the attention to the text from the very first string.

  11. hmv

    GPUs & SGI?

    So games are responsible for GPUs? Does anyone remember a little company called SGI that produced graphics workstations that included board sets that did 3D graphics (including textures) back in the 1980s? And the three SGI employees who founded 3Dfx?


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