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I've been working on the NatSemi PACE article and I'm trying to track down a bit of trivia... someone inserted a statement:

McDonnell Douglas produced a classified military 16-bit processor called the "Actron" around 1973

I did a bit of googling... Actron Industries was a company in the 1960s that McD purchased. The hits I found suggest they worked on optical systems and sensors, and there's a reference or two to data processing of those images, but from the 1980s.

I suppose that Actron might have built a CPU, but that seems unlikely. It's also possible they just called it that, or even more likely that it was used in an Actron product and the name got confused.

In any event, does anyone know of a McD processor?

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  • That footnote has a [citation needed] on it. Whoever wrote it may have been thinking of the CADC. Oct 22 at 1:10
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    Yeah, but CADC was Garrett, 20-bit, and multi-chip. And I put the cite needed for just this reason. Oct 22 at 1:15
  • See some mention of Actron and the Nitron Division of McDonnell Douglas working on a microprocessor but that seems to be mid-late 70's. (search Google Books for Actron processor).
    – Brian
    Oct 22 at 2:57
  • Air University Review 1973 - Volume 26 - Page 24 has an image + mention: google.ca/books/edition/Air_University_Review/…
    – Brian
    Oct 22 at 3:10
  • Actron AM1608 microprocessor reference in Proceedings of the American Society of Photogrammetry Fall Technical Meeting 1975. Very small snippet shown in Google books search however. (search on Actron AM1 608 microprocessor)
    – Brian
    Oct 22 at 3:34
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Ok, here is what I have so far:

Based on Brian's reference, it appears that the design was originally fabbed as a three-chip set. The caption in the magazine speaks of "other chips are the arithmetic unit and the memory..." which strongly suggests this is a three-chip unit similar in construction to the original IMP-16, where instruction decode on one chip and ALU on another - the last might be ROM or microcode.

Also note the language in the caption, "the ACTRON microprocessor set called UDAM", which further suggests this is a multi-chip design, and that it wasn't called "the" Actron, but is simply a product from Actron. I wonder if the claim that this was called "the Actron" comes literally from this caption?

It appears they did indeed make a single-chip version of this, the AM1608. This definitely comes from a later date, as several references speak of McD "talking to" potential customers in the late 1975 time frame. The only references that mention actually using the design all post-date that era.

As such I have removed the claim from the PACE article, it appears very safe to conclude it remains the first single-chip 16-bit general purpose CPU design.

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