BTRON Interface Goes International

Steven J. Searle

Web Master, TRON Web

In June, Personal Media Corporation made available via the World Wide Web for downloading free of charge two foreign language interface kits that allow speakers of English and Esperanto for the first time to utilize the BTRON3-specification operating system and its bundled applications. While this move does not completely open the door to the world of TRON to people in foreign countries--the user manuals still have not been translated into English and Esperanto--it is a step in the right direction. At last, people in foreign countries, particularly engineers, will have a chance to see what BTRON can do while using it in a language they can understand. As I pointed out previously on TRON Web, BTRON represents a new personal computing paradigm, a fifth generation personal computing model. From the very beginning, it was planned for a multilingual, ubiquitous computing environment. In that sense, it is the only new personal computing model to appear in recent years.

Let's get specific. I recently watched an Internet streaming broadcast in which Steve Jobs of Apple Computer Inc. talked about his company's vision of the future at Macworld Expo New York 2002. Not surprisingly, this vision centers around the Macintosh personal computer, which is to serve as the "hub" for all sorts of computerized devices--digital camcorders, digital cameras, cell-phones, music players, etc.--almost all of which, incidentally, are ITRON powered. Did you take some nice pictures with your digital camera? Upload them to your Mac and view them on the Mac's big, colorful screen. Going on a business trip? Download your important telephone numbers from your Mac to your cell-phone before you go. There is nothing wrong with this scenario, and if Macintosh users in general are as enthusiastic as the Macintosh users in Jobs' audience, then Apple should make a tidy profit supplying people with the means to realize this vision of future computing.

However, there is a different model of network computing that is not based on this big-computer-to-little-computer paradigm. That model is the TRON Hypernetwork model--called the "Highly Functional Distributed System" in technical parlance--in which computers are distributed throughout the human environment, even in the walls, ceilings, floors, and furniture. Since these will all based on a unified architecture, the TRON Architecture to be exact, they will all be able to communicate with each other in real time. Believe it or not, in this scenario, the core computer for humans is not the desktop computer, but rather the cell-phone or wireless PDA, which can be carried from one room to another or even to locations outside the home or office. While this may seem unbelievably futuristic, the model was actually conceived 20 years ago, and now with the launch of the T-Engine project, the basic technologies to implement it will be perfected in the next five years.

What's important here is that the BTRON operating system is the "hub" through which humans will communicate with this computerized environment, and that this hub is now available for experimentation by foreign technical firms thanks to the newly released English and Esperanto interface kits. The current version of the BTRON3-specification operating system, Cho Kanji 4, is already of capable of operating in an IEEE 802.11b-based wireless environment, and it has already been successfully ported to the Hitachi implementation of the T-Engine specification. All that is needed now is the TRON-based ubiquitous environment, and that will soon be under development at the T-Engine Forum's new research laboratory, the YRP Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory* in Gotanda, Tokyo. As Prof. Sakamura stated in his opinion piece in Vol. 75 of TRONWARE, he is unhappy that IPv6 isn't a real-time network protocol, so what YRP UNL does might be highly significant.

Of course, there is another reason to take a look at BTRON, and that has to do with something that is becoming very difficult these days--making money. In particular, making money has become very difficult for software companies, especially those that develop for the industry standard IBM-PC/AT compatible platform. Conversely, BTRON is almost a virgin personal computer architecture. Although it comes equipped with a suite of bundled productivity applications that make it possible to employ it in academia or business, there are lots of applications that have yet to be developed for it. Accordingly, small software houses that do not want to go up against Microsoft on the IBM-PC/AT architecture might consider re-engineering and porting existing applications to BTRON. There is not going to be intense competition on the architecture for several more years, and, moreover, the architecture is protected from monopolization, since it is "open" and "royalty free."

Personal Media's foreign language interface kits for BTRON open up a world of possibilities; it will be very interesting to see who takes advantage of them and how over the coming years.


* YRP stands for Yokosuka Research Park.