AppleCrate: Apple II Parallel Computing

Now, here’s something you don’t see every day. Michael J. Mahon has created the AppleCrate, a parallel computer comprised of eight Apple IIe motherboards running on Mahon’s NadaNet network. From Mahon’s site:

    In 1996, I began thinking about how one might network Apple II computers using only its built-in serial I/O: the pushbutton inputs and the annunciator outputs, and wondered what could be done with such a network. I have worked intermittently on this project over the intervening years, more frequently since I have retired. This document describes its current state.

    The possibility of creating a useful network using only wire and software was esthetically appealing. Because it initially required no hardware other than the connecting wires, I dubbed it “NadaNet” (“nada” is Spanish for “nothing”). It was an interesting challenge to design an Ethernet-like network from the ground up. The exercise provided an experimental vehicle to illuminate the various issues and tradeoffs in creating and using such a network. It also became a tool for exploring various higher-level applications of networking, such as client-server and parallel computing.

    To add more processors and save space, I decided that I would package several Apple //e main boards together, without keyboards or peripheral slot cards. I settled on a wooden cube about one foot on a side which I slotted to hold up to 8 main boards.

A rather impressive piece of work. How many IIe motherboards would it take to outperform VA Tech’s Terascale 1100 node Xserve G5 supercluster?

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