back to article Designer breaks up trad PC design

If a small form factor PC is still too large for your liking or offers more functionality than you need, then one designer has created a more manageable solution. Uni is a PC concept where operating units are designed as separate white-box units which can then be connected together via three-pin plugs, as and when required. …


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  1. Chris Miller

    Nothing new

    An Intel-based PC built from clip-together modules? Convergent Technologies (of blessed memory) were doing this 20 years ago (admittedly the modules had to be somewhat larger in those days):

  2. Michael Compton

    I think ASUS's concept was better...

    Well i think it was ASUS, I remember seeing it a while back it was a shelf that placed the components on which transfered both data and power wirelessly to and from the special shelf you placed the components .

    Admittedly it was only a concept but a tad cooler if you ask me

  3. Dillon Pyron

    Venture capital

    "Unfortunately, Uni is still a concept at the moment, but we would be very interested to see it working, if it ever gets to that stage."

    Translation: "Let's get about $12M in VC funding, piss it away on houses and Ferraris and then say it didn't really work out."

  4. Paul

    I/O devices

    "There's no explanation as to how the various units connect up to peripheral devices, such as monitors, keyboards or mice"

    Perhaps the box marked "see" Might conect to your TV, and the rest by wireless conections...?

    Very cool though.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice idea shame about the website

    Really cool ideas there Richard Choi.

    One thing lets you down..... The typos and grammar errors.

    Makes it very difficult to treat a concept seriously if you spell After like TAfter.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two letters, three numbers and a slash.


    If you don't need performance, but just want something compact, low power and easy to assemble, try PC/104 - OK, it's not cheap, but it does the trick. For example, a headless PC/104 stack makes a great low-power silent web server.

    On the other hand, this concept looks bulky and unrealistic. Splitting the PC into multiple units will inevitably lead to higher overall power usage as each unit will need a power supply and line interface device, as opposed to having one shared power supply for a traditional machine.

  7. Adam Potts

    RE: Anon - spelling errors

    I doubt he's English, lets forgive him the grammar errors!

  8. Simon Riley

    @ Anonynmous

    If you're going to slate a web site's grammar, get your own right.

    "One thing lets you down..... The typos and grammar errors."

    Last I checked that's 2 things.


  9. Nick L

    As said, nothing new...

    The 80s called: they want their idea back ;-)

    As I used to work for Unisys, I have to agree with Chris above: this is nothing new. The CTOS boxes which, worryingly, are still part of mission critical systems in the UK, are a very neat bit of design.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Power ? Reliability ?

    Won't fly, can't pass Energy Star or EuP. Multiple small power supplies are less efficient and less reliable than one larger one, and power management on wireless links is difficult to say the least.

  11. Adam Buckland

    Seen it before

    ICL DRS300 from the 1980's did that, you just added modules.


    Former ICL DRS300 Systems Programmer (For my sins)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some nice ideas but...

    The FLOR Monitor is plain freaky, see here at the very bottom of the page

    Its apparently made of meat.

    Or maybe its more a case of

    "Waiter, this duck is rubbery!"

    "Ah, so grad you rike it"...

  13. Chris Simmons

    Old news

    I can't remember the product codes/names, but when I worked for Unisys in the mid-80's we had a modular "PC" system that involved just buying the unit slabs you needed and connecting them like Lego.

  14. Danny

    How is this more compact?

    Without the measurements it is hard to be sure, But it looks as if they come out a lot bulkier than a shuttle once they are plugged together and are less efficient as they all need a seperate power source

  15. Mark Rendle


    Those used SCSI interconnects, didn't they? Place I worked had a cold one on a shelf. Said I could have it if I wanted it. I said no because I couldn't be bothered to carry it on the train. Stupid, stupid, stupid...

  16. Eric Welsh

    SGI Origin 3000

    And let's not forget about the SGI Origin 3000:

  17. Craig Collier

    Oi you lot, read again, look at the pictures.

    Each individual unit does NOT need its own power supply,. that woudl kinda defeat the object here would it not?

    Each unit plugs into the next, so the last one plugs into the wall, and all the others just slot into the front of that.

    This is a really neat idea, and along with the ASUS idea mentioned above, is my idea of the future of computing. One day, there will be no CPU or GPU - each 'screen' or terminal thin client will just wireless connect to the main computer in each house/street/town even... its along way off, but distributed processing (if i can call it that) with multiple cores and platforms seems to be the way it'll work.

    One day we'll laugh that we sat here with everything connected by wires and actually pressing keys on a qwerty keyboard!!!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    *Very* old idea

    Looks strangely reminiscent of the Texas Instruments TI 99/4.

    The cool thing about that MCF was, once you got more than two or three modules dasiy-chained together, all you had to do was jiggle the table slightly, and some connection somewhere would be sure to come apart and cause the whole system to crash.

  19. Andy Brown

    Old idea rehashed

    I used to work with the old Unisys B-series boxes that worked the same way - a standard size slab case about 8 inches square and 5 inches wide with a standard connector on each face. You just plugged in whatever units you wanted side-by-side and stuck an end-cap on the connectors on the last one in the chain.

    The biggest system I remember had 8 slabs plugged together, forming a base unit about 3 foot long with a monitor sitting on top. It generated a fair amount of heat as well.

    Personally, I think this latest incarnation of the plug-together PC will end up sinking the same as all the earlier versions. While it sounds like a good idea, it just doesn't work very well in practice.

  20. James Pickett


    That must be some data throughput, if it needs 13 Amp connectors to handle it :-)

    Can't help thinking that a laptop might be a simpler (and undoubtedly cheaper) solution, though...

  21. Morely Dotes

    All bling, no brains

    USB, eh? And how long, after you've moved it and reconnected everything, until all the units recognize one another again? It takes too bloody long now with wired USB - I hate to think of the minutes wasted waiting to "see if the keyboard will work this time."

  22. James Pickett


    And why is it that 'designers' have to write such big labels on things? Is it because, as Arts graduates, they have to remind themselves what the thing they're designing a box for actually does..?

  23. Tim Butterworth

    Hey, that's my idea!

    I had this idea just after a pal of mine got a new iMac back in 1997. I nearly went to the effort of making a working model, but decided that the disadvantages of this design outweighed considerably its advantages.

    For example, what will the long term future of Think be? Will I be able to buy modules of the same design in a few years? Or will an upgrade mean replacing everything so that all the bits match? Even worse, the cutting edge upgrades probably won't be available in Think module form for ages, and they'll be hideously expensive.

    Over the Think's life, will I find that some of the light coloured modules get dirty more quickly because they get hotter or have a higher air throughput? If a bit needs replacing because it breaks, will the Think warrentee ensure that new bits are put in the old box to make sure the replacement doesn't look too new? Will the factories or processes used change half way through the production run, meaning that different modules bought a year apart don't quite look the same?

    A week old Think sitting proudly on a large desk will probably look really cool. Three years down the line I doubt it will look anywhere near as good.

  24. eddiewrenn

    They stole my idea!! #2

    OK not really, and if anyone goes off and does this I want 5% of any profits! (Ha! As if that disclaimer would work!)

    Anyway, I've often wondered why some company, e.g. Alienware or whatever's called, don't make a 'flat' PC that can be securely/safely fastened to the wall, perhaps in between that and a flatscreen that's, say, 4" thick and 1.5m x 1.5m wide.

    All components, e.g. hard drive, graphic card, motherboard, called all be placed flat alongside each other, and discreet fans sending the air through, up and out the top.

    Made from a well-chosen (visual appearance/strength/head-conduction) metal material and a choice of finishes/colours, it could sit on the wall and be effectively invisable (or highlighted), be behind the TV if needed, connect to input peripherals other devices wirelessly/wireless USB and have a zero footmark.

    The main issue would be one power-lead and potentially one video-lead.

    This idea might sound crap to a lot of people...

  25. LaeMi Qian

    @ Craig

    Well unless you are assuming all the inside parts run off 220VAC, there has to be a small internal power supply inside each unit.

    A better way to do it would be to have a power module as the base and a custom multi-pin socket between modules to carry PCIe, DC voltages, etc.

    Oh dear, I have just described PCIe/104.

  26. Christopher E. Stith

    eddiewren, these people want their 5% if you do this...

  27. Francis Boyle

    A custom connector

    would make a lot more sense: only one power supply and they could lose that piece of 19th century tech stuck to the front of your gleaming white 1970s, er 21st century, design.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More bounce to the ounce

    It's reminiscent of the IBM PCJr, which had a base unit, and you could upgrade it by adding "sidecars" to the side. They were case-shaped upgrade modules:

    I think the fundamental problem with this new design is that it is ugly. It is also pointless, but that is not a fundamental problem; lots of things are pointless but lucrative (e.g. the blue lights that people put underneath their cars). It also looks like an Apple concept design circa 1989, although without the ridges and angular lines of the LC.

  29. Richard Porter

    What a lot of clutter!

    If you want a really compact computer get an A9 Home.

  30. Steve Nordquist

    30x the packaging, TPC-bane, and sitting on it's even more disastrous than before!

    Now, if the modules were labeled 'Breadth,' 'Inexhaustability,' 'Restfuless,' 'Character,' 'Affirmation,' 'Transformance,' 'Sensibility' and 'Fullness' rather than fake chintz terms for 'HD' 'Video' 'Drive I use only for the Adobe BluRay application media' etc. then it would be more worthwhile having a system which lends itself to prank rearrangements, inflatable fakes and self-virtualizing (hello inexpensive Flash and MRAM! Copyright aye.) components.

    Also, it would hedge against the full brutal rage people would feel at the system operation using up the local free 2.5 and 5.1 GHz spectrum...badly. Certainly the term 'far-field communications' has been abused badly here. Perhaps his next solution will be to use 23-solar-mass nova events behind shaped baffles of dark matter to time tea; the merit is, the tea leaves are removed from the steeper's universe, which helps prevent bitterness. If your guest entertains bitter tea, unfortunately the host is imbued with 11 solar masses in her person for some period of time. Like most newfangled brewing systems, refills are oddly pricey.

  31. Rob Gemmell

    Old idea indeed

    I have an old Sun SparcClassic sitting in my closet. It takes up lots of space not to mention that it requires is own monitor which is another monster altogether. I fail to see the logic of breaking up the CPU from the HD other useful prefs. Mini Towers, the Mac Mini and Laptops come to mind if you want to have a small package. If you want to add to it then you can buy external perfs. This is a just another repackaged idea that people with money will buy for nostalgia purposes.

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