Daystar Digital are the company who pratically invented multiprocessing on the Mac with their Genesis MP line of computers. Their legacy is visible even today; if you take a look at the Multiprocessing.h header you will find the line

Copyright:  © 1995-2001 DayStar Digital, Inc.

Beefy Machines

In between 1996 and 1997 Daystar made Macintosh clones rangeing from the Genesis MP 300, equipped with dual 150Mhz 604 processors, to the Genesis MP 932+ which had quad 233Mhz 604e processors. Apart from their raw power, these systems were caracterised by the expandibility (apart from the L2 cache, 512 KB of which was soldered to the motherboard).

They came in large tower cases with 6 PCI slots and 7 internal drive bays. 12 DIMM slots, taking 168pin EDO or FPM DIMMs allowed up to 1.5 Gigs of RAM to be installed (you could interleave the DIMMs too). A hefty PSU (300 Watts) and 2 powerful but noisy cooling fans meant that you could use all these expansion possibilities without toasting several thousand dollars worth of computer. Lastly their CPUs were mounted on on a daughtercard which has allowed many of these fine machines to be upgraded with G3 and G4s and live on until Apple produces a machine with similar expandibility. Indeed Sonnet has just released a 800 Mhz G4 upgrade compatible with such machines.

These were computers that were built to last, with solid steel cases not the wimpy plastic jobs that are becoming commonplace. They weighed around 50lb and the build quality was far higher than machines produced by Apple or the other clonemakers.On the downside they didn't come cheap, a Genesis MP+ 900 (4x 604e@225Mhz) would have set you back $10000 when it was released on the 1st of June 1997.

All this came to an end though on the 25th of August 1997, when Daystar discontinued their machines. The Genesis MP+ 932 had been introduced just two weeks before. During the quarrels over the licensing of Mac OS 8 Apple's growing hostility to the clonemakers had become evident by that point, so Daystar decided to pull out. Just over a week later, on the 3rd of September 1997 Apple bought Power Computing's (the original clone maker) license back. The clone era (and in many ways the clone wars) were over.

Yet somehow lacking...

Enough history, and back to Daystar. All of their machines were based around the Tsunami motherboard architecture used in Apple's PowerMac 8500 and 9500 machines and as such shared features like built in Ethernet, on board SCSI and the usual complement of ADB and serial ports. Bus speeds were controlled by the daughtercard and could range from 40 to 50Mhz. I remember drooling over these machines... If however you managed to gather enough money to buy one of these fine machines you might of been in for a bit of a surprise. Picture the scene: It has just been delivered, you rip open the packaging like a child on its birthday. Finally the system is setup and ready to go. You power it up, shaking with impatience. You run a few apps. Strange, it doesn't seem to be running any faster than your single-processor machine. It isn't. The Mac OS wasn't optimised to use multiple processors (and wasn't really until Mac OS X). Applications needed to be specially written to take advantage of the multiple processors. From a technical point of view, you needed to use MP Threads. Execution of these threads was spread accross all processors present. But even them life wasn't rosy: only very few system functions could be called from MP Threads. No File I/O for example (at least not until 2001 and Mac OS 9.1). No network I/O (again not until Mac OS 9.1. No sound. The Apple standard C library was not MP safe. Only strictly compute bound applications would benefit from the multiple processors.

Despite this the Daystar Digital machines were very nice indeed. They were the first multiprocessor macs and were very well made. As you might expect for machines costing up to $10,000 no corners were cut. They were the fastest machines on the block at the time and were the fastest 604e based Macs built (although of course they lost to higher clocked single processor machines in tests that didn't use the extra processors) Or were they ? There are rumors that some Apple engineers once created a machine known as the Mutant, a creature so hideous that it was never allowed outside a basement deep underground 1, Infinite Loop, Cupertino. The Mutant was rumored to have 24 604e processors. But that's another story, for another node.