In some old video on YouTube a few years ago, I noticed a curious computer from the end of the 70s - early 80s. In the rack (half height), typical of minicomputers of those years, there was a 14" hard disk, an impressively massive power supply and a computer itself on several printed circuit boards.

If I do not change my memory, there was a system based on i8080 or Z80 CPU, peripheral controllers (printer and terminal), a hard disk controller on SSI/MSI chips and a certain hardware database accelerator with bit-slice ALU.

In general, a certain analogue of the middle-class systems from IBM, produced by some little-known USA company (start-up of those years probably).

Unfortunately, I did not succeed anent of anything about this system, and I ask for help. Looking for the history of this computer, description, documentation... Or at least a name for searching in Google.

  • 3
    Sure it was an 8080? The description sounds much like business computers from the 70s, like MAI et.al.
    – Raffzahn
    Jan 2, 2022 at 16:34
  • I'm not sure that was exactly the i8080 processor. But about the combination of an 8-bit processor itself (not terminal) and bit-slice accelerator I, however remembered well. But yes, somehow it looks like MAI BB line (Microdata corp) computers. Hm... Jan 2, 2022 at 16:54
  • 1
    Unfortunately, I did not succeed anent of anything about this system 'succeed anent' doesn't make sense - please can you edit and correct this, to clarify what you mean. Thanks.
    – TonyM
    Jan 4, 2022 at 14:43
  • 2
    Sounds like an MAI BASIC/Four minicomputer - except that bit-slice processor in that case wasn't a "database accelerator" it was the actual CPU - custom instruction set (bytecode) for running BASIC (and another custom instruction set, bytecode, for running the compiler/decompiler which was written in TREE-META). I don't remember there being an 8080/Z80 in there (don't remember one way or the other) but if there was it would have been a (multi-) terminal controller.
    – davidbak
    Jan 4, 2022 at 21:53
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    (Not sure what you meant by "Microdata Corp" ... explain?)
    – davidbak
    Jan 4, 2022 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


I believe you are referring to the seminal CAFS system introduced by ICL in the 1970s.

This was a combination of a hard drive and a custom computer that performed database searches without the data leaving the hard drive. The initial implementation was literally built right onto the drive head. I can't be sure that the hardware included a bit-slice processor, but given the time that is hardly difficult to imagine (the AMD designs were widely used then).

The host computer would basically send a search term to the drive which would then return the matching records directly, without the need for all of the data to be streamed to the host to perform the matching there. This dramatically increased performance while at the same time freeing the host for other tasks like terminal handling.

Although test units were built in the 1960s, the first production systems were built in the early 1970s for British Telecom, which used them for phone number lookups. A newer version which used "standard microprocessors" was released in the early 1980s.

  • Remarkable device for that time!
    – davidbak
    Sep 23, 2022 at 16:01

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