Inside your SAM, there is an ASIC chip (Application Specific Integrated Circuit). This is more or less the heart of SAM and does the bulk of the tasks. This chip, designed by Bruce Gordon, cost MGT many, many hundreds of thousands to complete because of it's very complex nature. It is still held in extremely high esteem by VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) , the makers, because of the high percentage of the ASIC which is actually used - the large majority of a normal chip is simply casing.
In order to test the work Bruce had done was accurate, and to supply developers with early machines, MGT commissioned 40 prototype ASICs to be manufactured at a cost of £50,000 - that's over a thousand pounds a chip! These ASICs have become known as gold-dust in SAM circles, not only because they are gold in colour (the ASIC inside your machine is a mass produced one, dark grey in colour) but because very few people had one - even SAMCo only had one!
After a large amount of searching by me and Bruce Gordon himself, we have recovered 20 of these gold ASICs. Considering their 'collectors item' appeal, we thought it would be nice to have them put in a display case.
Originally, we were just thinking along these lines so that we could have one each for our walls. But we've decided to buy up the rest of them and make them available to dedicated SAM users.
The result is the gold ASICs are mounted in a gold picture frame with a small plaque (printed in gold) explaining what the ASIC is. Each of these plaques has been individually signed by Bruce Gordon, who you all know as the designer of the ASIC, the SAM as well as many of it's interfaces.
As an interesting fact, these few chips (or prototype engineering samples to give them their proper name) are actually of much higher quality than the mass produced ASICs, purely because they were made individually!
Although the ASICs have been very elegantly mounted, the main cost was the chips themselves, and the complete package is being sold for £80. We know this is a lot of money, but I'm sure you'll agree that what you're getting is something very special. Assuming we can sell the rest of them, Bruce and I will be able to keep one each for ourselves at cost price - which was the main objective in the first place!
We know that these chips are going to be in demand, particularly because of their few in number. They will undoubtedly become worth more as time goes on, and so as not to 'sell out' everyone that's supported the SAM over the last few years, we have to stipulate a few conditions for the purchase of one of these :
You must be a DEDICATED SAM user - for this you will probably have had a SAM for at least two years, and preferably know some of the higher standing people in the SAM community. We are NOT interested in selling to people that have not followed SAM through it's ups and downs.
We can also only allow one per SAM user.
We will have a few of these at the Gloucester Show for sale, so please bring proof of identity.
If you wish to purchase one, phone the FRED line to confirm your suitability, and their availability. DO NOT just send off a cheque for £80 in the post.
We hope that the dedicated SAM owners will take pride in joining myself and Bruce in being one of only twenty to have a gold ASIC hanging proudly on your wall.
Just to remind you, the cost is £80 exactly, and it is approximately A5 size.
Another interesting fact is that, should you wish to, you could take one of these gold ASICs out of the frame and use it in your SAM - it would function as normal!
Known recipients at the time:
- Colin MacDonald
- Chris White - Is in use in his Coupé
- Colin Piggot
- James R Curry
- Nev Young - now Dan Dooré in the SAM Prototype
- Simon Cooke
- Stefan Drissen
- Steve Taylor
- Tim Paveley
Known recipients subsequently :
[Golden ASICS] are the batch of 40 test pieces from VLSI. If I remember correctly the prices going around was £50,000 for the 40 prototype pieces. Typical procedure was to pay a very high price initially to pay for all the masks etc required for the manufacture of the silicon and get a few test pieces before commencing with a full batch of chips.
They get their ‘gold’ name for being in ceramic packaging with gold plated contacts and lid, with the mass produced batch in the more normal plastic packaging.