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98/83/1 Rockwell AIM65 microcomputer, polyvinyl chloride / metal / rubber / electronic components, made by Rockwell International Corporation, United States of America, 1979. Click to enlarge.

AIM65 computer by Rockwell International Corporation

Made
This AIM65, or Advanced Interactive Microcomputer with 8-bit 6502 microprocessor, was made by Rockwell in the USA in 1979. Scientists at CSIRO's National Measurement Laboratory in Sydney used it to control a calorimeter in which they measured the heat capacity of samples at very low temperatures. The microcomputer received results from digital voltmeters and sent them to a minicomputer for analysis. Computers allow a great deal of data to be gathered from experiments, revealing more detail than older methods of data acquisition.

This Rockwell AIM65 computer was used at the CSIRO National Measurement Laboratory (NML). It was one of the first single board computers to become available and accessible to a broad market at a reasonable cost (US$1,000). The term 'single board' meant it could stand alone; there was no need to add peripheral control cards as it had built-in keyboard, printer and display. The AIM was specifically marketed towards scientific research applications, in particular instrument control and instrument data logging.

This Rockwell AIM65 was used to control an adiabatic pulse-type calorimeter, an instrument that was designed to test the heat capacity of solid samples between 0.3 and 20 degrees Kelvin. The data acquisition control system used the AIM65 to control all aspects of the thermometry and heat injection. Experimental data was transferred to the host computer, a PDP11/34A that used the UNIX operating system, for reduction. The AIM65 interfaced simply with digital voltmeters, communicated without an elaborate interface to a network using a UNIX operating system, and could operate as a stand-alone unit.

Two software programs were used. The first allowed the AIM65 to control the experiment and acquire data from the various instruments. The other program formed a part of the UNIX operating system on the host computer network that received data from the AIM65. The AIM65 control program was written in BASIC, except for a short machine language section which enabled a timer to act as a clock to pace the measurements.

The NML's decision to purchase a Rockwell AIM65 was based on several factors including the following.

Cost - the AIM65 price tag of $1000 was a main attraction.

Programmability - the AIM 65 operated the BASIC high level language, making it easier to write and manage programs and tasks than if machine code was used.

Precision - employing the AIM65 for data acquisition removed the chance of error that sometimes occurs when data is read from an analogue chart recorder, the way data was previously recorded. When a chart machine receives data that causes the curve to change suddenly or drastically, the exact reading and event are difficult to interpret.

Performance - the AIM65's reliability and capacity to record larger volumes of data was also superior to previous data logging systems and devices.

Productivity - the reduction of time required for the interpretation of data recorded. The efficiency of operation offered reduced project time. As advised by the donor, no staff lost their job, but they did not need to work until 11pm any more.

Significance of the 6502 CHIP: the Rockwell AIM65 employed a Rockwell 6502 microprocessor (1MHz). The 6502 was a very popular 8-bit microprocessor in the late 1970s and the 1980s. The 6502 and its variants were used in many game systems and computers including: Apple II, Apple II+, Apple III, Apple IIe, Apple IIc, Apple IIc+, Commodore PET, Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, Atari 400, Atari 800, Atari 800XL, Atari 1200XL, Atari 600XL, Atari 2600 (game system), MOS Technologies KIM-1, Rockwell AIM65, Oric-1, Oric Atmos, Oric Telestrat, Tangerine Microtan-65, Acorn Atom, Acorn BBC-A, Acorn BBC-B+, Acorn BBC-B, Acorn Electron. The 6502 was also used in the Nintendo entertainment system (NES).

The Rockwell International Corporation was involved in technology innovation in a number of areas, including microprocessors, factory automation controls and motors, radios, advanced aircraft and space vehicles, communications systems and global positioning systems.

Summary

Object No.

98/83/1

Object Statement

Rockwell AIM65 microcomputer, polyvinyl chloride / metal / rubber / electronic components, made by Rockwell International Corporation, United States of America, 1979

Physical Description

Rockwell AIM65 microcomputer, polyvinyl chloride / metal / rubber / electronic components, made by Rockwell International Corporation, United States of America, 1979

The AIM65 (Rockwell R6500 Advanced Interactive Micro-computer) is a general purpose micro-computer. The AIM65 consists of two modules interconnected by a short plug-in ribbon cable. All this is housed inside a robust brown plastic case with many multi-coloured ribbon cables of various sizes and with various connections for attachment to instruments. The master module holds a 20 column dot matrix thermal printer, a 20 character alphanumeric display (using 16-segment font for 64 character ASCII set) and the micro-computer components. The keyboard module contains 54 keys.

Marks

In white on front 'Rockwell'.

Production

Notes

The Rockwell AIM65 was one of the first single board computers to become available and accessible to a broad market at a reasonable cost (US$1,000). The term single board meant it could stand alone; there was no need to add peripheral control cards. For example the AIM had a built-in keyboard, printer and display. The AIM was specifically marketed towards scientific research applications, in particular instrument control and instrument data logging. The AIM65 operated in high level languages, which offered the freedom of writing and managing programs and tasks in BASIC instead of in machine code. The Rockwell AIM65 employed a Rockwell 6502 microprocessor (1MHz). The 6502 was a very popular 8-bit microprocessor in the late 1970s and the 1980s. The 6502 and its variants were used in many game systems and computers. The Rockwell AIM65 was manufactured by Rockwell International Corporation in 1979.

History

Notes

This Rockwell AIM65 was used at the CSIRO National Measurement Laboratory (NML) to control an adiabatic pulse-type calorimeter, an instrument that was designed to test the heat capacity of solid samples between 0.3 and 20 degrees Kelvin. The data acquisition control system incorporated the AIM65 to control all aspects of the thermometry and the injection of the heat pulse into the sample. The AIM65 was interfaced with a host computer (PDP11/34A) that used the UNIX operating system. Experiment data was transferred to the host computer for reduction. The AIM65 interfaced simply with digital voltmeters (DVMs), communicated without an elaborate interface to a network using a UNIX operating system, and could operate as a stand-alone.

Two software programs were used. The first allowed the AIM65 to control the experiment and acquire data from the various instruments. The other program formed a part of the UNIX operating system on the host computer network that received data from the AIM65. The AIM65 control program was written in BASIC, except for a short machine language section which enabled a timer to pace the measurements.

Some other recorded applications of the AIM 65 to scientific instrument control include: Spectrometers, Nucleus 1024D Multichannel Analysers and Electron Beam Gas Excitation Apparatus. Dedicated interfaces to these instruments were constructed to control instruments and read output (Documentation - Extent and Quality).

A copy of a published paper authored by John Collocott (donor and user) is included in this acquisition (on blue file) and is most detailed in the application of the AIM65:

COLLOCOTT, John A Simple Microcomputer-controlled Calorimeter: the Heat Capacity of Copper, Invar and RBNiCl3 in the Range 2-20 K*

Abstract:

A simple inexpensive microcomputer has been used to control an adiabatic pulse-type calorimeter. The data acquisition control system incorporates a Rockwell AIM65 microcomputer to control all aspects of the thermometry and the injection of the heat pulse into the sample. Details of the hardware and software requirements are discussed, including the interface of the system with a host computer that uses the UNIX operating system.

Purchased by CSIRO in 1981 and donated to museum in 1997.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Dr Stephen Collocott, 1997

Acquisition Date

29 May 1998

Cite this Object

Harvard

AIM65 computer by Rockwell International Corporation 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 12 April 2021, <https://ma.as/164576>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/164576 |title=AIM65 computer by Rockwell International Corporation |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=12 April 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Science & Exploration at the Museums Discovery Centre.