Mars N. A Legendary Tragic Failure, The Archetypal Hacker Dream Gone Wrong.

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Mars n.

A legendary tragic failure, the archetypal Hacker
Dream Gone Wrong. Mars was the code name for a family of PDP-10
compatible computers built by Systems Concepts (now, The SC Group):
the multi-processor SC-30M, the small uniprocessor SC-25M, and the
never-built superprocessor SC-40M. These machines were marvels of
engineering design; although not much slower than the unique
Foonly F-1, they were physically smaller and consumed less
power than the much slower DEC KS10 or Foonly F-2, F-3, or F-4
machines. They were also completely compatible with the DEC KL10,
and ran all KL10 binaries (including the operating system) with no
modifications at about 2-3 times faster than a KL10.

When DEC cancelled the Jupiter project in 1983, Systems Concepts
should have made a bundle selling their machine into shops with a
lot of software investment in PDP-10s, and in fact their spring
1984 announcement generated a great deal of excitement in the
PDP-10 world. TOPS-10 was running on the Mars by the summer of
1984, and TOPS-20 by early fall. Unfortunately, the hackers
running Systems Concepts were much better at designing machines
than at mass producing or selling them; the company allowed itself
to be sidetracked by a bout of perfectionism into continually
improving the design, and lost credibility as delivery dates
continued to slip. They also overpriced the product ridiculously;
they believed they were competing with the KL10 and VAX 8600 and
failed to reckon with the likes of Sun Microsystems and other
hungry startups building workstations with power comparable to the
KL10 at a fraction of the price. By the time SC shipped the first
SC-30M to Stanford in late 1985, most customers had already made
the traumatic decision to abandon the PDP-10, usually for VMS or
Unix boxes. Most of the Mars computers built ended up being
purchased by CompuServe.

This tale and the related saga of Foonly hold a lesson for
hackers: if you want to play in the Real World, you need to
learn Real World moves.