Proposed Specifications for the Next Home Computer

"The Computer as an Object of Learning: Time for Something New" may be found, with corrections, at

Specifications for Cerberus
21 June 2005
Cerberus, in Greek mythology, is a three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades. The computer system, whose working name shall be Cerberus, is built around the philosophy of the open, distributed system: many low-cost, low power, small-footprint computing units (CU’s) can achieve respectable performance and at the same time give developers complete control of each unit. This includes its RAM and DMA. All access to user input, disk, video, audio, FireWire, USB, and LAN I/O is managed by a central “traffic cop

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doug-doug the mighty's picture

...but that was a well written and thoughful article. I would love to own a machine like this should it ever happen.

I think there is also something to be said in the end user understanding their hardware. Perhaps the HLC could be produced in a kit form, allowing users to physically assemble the HLC on their own much as was done with tube-based amplifier in days of yore (back when Radio Shack actually sold parts instead of gadgets).


Other people actually read these things then Smile

You're very kind.

The article just reflects a different way of looking at things, that questions some of the common trends and consensus in the discipline of Computer Science. I also wanted to work the oft-stifled right-brain back into the picture.

This is the type of machine the Apple II was and is. It is the reason I became interested in programming. What's proposed here is really more comparable to an open game console system than a modern PC. It is for kids, or grown-ups - people who want to unleash creativity without the stifling influence of a huge, draconian operating system with the accompanying security, etc. Programs like Netscape Navigator would still be possible...

The Apple II got away with this open architecture partly because of the limitations of its age: small amount of memory, not blazingly fast, therefore no feasibility in large multithreaded operating systems and thus no need for security, encapsulation, etc. The Apple II WAS itself a single capsule, if you will, in which you could do anything within its limitations.

I miss those days, but there's no reason such a machine could not be built and offered, fronting easy access to the latest and greatest technology.

astro_rob's picture

What a well written, thought out piece! I wish I were more of an engineer, but as an end user, I prefer my machines to simply... work. However, I am also a tinkerer, so the idea of the HLC just really stands out.
Good work... hope this inspires.


Thanks, you're very kind. I hope to have time to actually work on it one of these days. For now, it's enough of a chore keeping my IIe in top shape Smile

The ideas coming to mind involve massive multiprocessing - think 16, or 1024 Apple II-like devices on a single chip, with a single, separate "heavy lifter" processor for shared use.

This way, each "process" or "thread" runs on its own physical device with its own memory, with completely unfettered access to output devies like video, sound, and data IO - Just like the Apple II, and very much unlike W*****s and other modern OS'es. This way, the computer will run rings around competing, single-processor designs - no matter how fast the CPU - because all of the traffic management will be done in hardware. That will be the trickiest part of the design but it can be done.

This is not really my idea - it has been around for years, just never made practical at the consumer level.