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publié le 19 février 2018 Beauté › Forme & Santé

“The LC3 OS was indeed written, in skeletal form,” said Goodwins in 2002. “[It had] multitasking, windowing and was potentially very fast - a complete context switch in around a hundred T states, ISTR. I don’t remember it being resurrected for Loki, but some of it may have been unearthed for Pandora.” Very possible, that, since Stephen Berry later designed the Pandora laptop’s system software.One way of reducing the cost - and dealing with a low memory capacity - was to fake up a bitmapped screen by making use of a character-based display, Berry says. Text VDUs store a small grid of Ascii values which are used to look up appropriate entries in a character matrix table accessed by the display processor. Change those character matrices - essentially treat them all as variable user-definable graphics - and you can replicate a bitmap screen and use less memory. Or so the theory went.Could the LC3 ever have come to market? That would have hinged on the Spectrum: would it have become cheap enough to produce for the price to be cut to around £50 or less, what Sinclair was selling the ZX81 for. Sinclair Research’s managing director, Nigel Searle, was, according to several ex-Sinclair staff, entirely unwilling to risk the company’s cash cow. That, plus the fact that an attempt to sell ROM cartridges for the Spectrum was a woeful failure - why buy £20 cartridges when tapes could be had for less than a fiver? - show that the economics would have to be very advantageous if the LC3 was to succeed.

Whether Brennan and Berry got an official go-ahead to begin development of the LC3 is unclear. Quite apart from the freedom Sinclair Research engineers enjoyed, the company was never one for formal approval processes and sign-offs. A nod from Clive Sinclair, Nigel Searle or even Jim Westwood would have been considered sufficient. However, unlike some projects, the LC3 did get beyond the proposal stage, and was even considered by management when the company’s leaders met in November 1983 to ponder the firm’s activities in 1984 and beyond. Since no serious Asian threats had emerged, and Spectrum production was getting cheaper, a line was drawn through the LC3.“I still think the LC3 was the best approach,” said Sir Clive in a 1986 post-sale interview with Sinclair User. “It was a complete colour computer, entirely on two chips - very much like the Japanese Nintendo machine but many years beforehand.” has become the latest media outlet to fall to an attack by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) with the account records of more than a million people swiped.A database containing email address and password combinations for 1,071,963 accounts was dumped online by the hacktivisits – including the records for Forbes contributors.Although the passwords were one-way encrypted, the publisher strongly urged its readers to change their login secrets. The team added:The email address for anyone registered with has been exposed. Please be wary of emails that purport to come from Forbes, as the list of email addresses may be used in phishing attacks. We have notified law enforcement. We take this matter very seriously and apologize to the members of our community for this breach. Just how exactly did Forbes protect its punters' passwords? After looking through the data, Sophos reckoned the site stored the information in the PHPass Portable format: each password and a random 6-byte salt were together run through the MD5 algorithm to generate a hash, and 8,192 iterations of MD5 were performed on the hash and the password. The final result was saved to the database.

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Users with particularly trivial passwords will be vulnerable to a dictionary attack; although the use of salt will slow down a miscreant, MD5 is hopelessly weak. The attackers can, say, combine the password “123456” with a particular user's salt and quickly generate a hash to check against that user's database entry. If it matches, the password is revealed; if not, try again with another similarly crap password.Now that the data is out there, people who used their email address and password combination to log into various other websites are at risk of losing control of multiple web accounts."It took about an hour, using one core of a vanilla laptop, to crack close to one-quarter of the passwords of the 500 or so Forbes employees in the database," said Sophos' Paul Ducklin."Astonishingly, 73 Forbes staffers (more than one-eighth of the list) had chosen a password consisting of their company's name, Forbes, followed by zero to four digits. 1 and 123 were the most common suffixes.”

Three online articles were defaced by the SEA as proof it carried out the database raid, and at the time of writing, Forbes' blog sites remain out of action. If it had ever been produced, Loki - just a codename, not a go-to-market handle - could have been Sinclair’s post-Spectrum 128, next-generation home computer. But it was never to be: it was an early casualty of Amstrad’s acquisition of the Sinclair brand and Sinclair Research’s IP. “Loki didn't ever really get anywhere,” said former Sinclair engineer Martin Brennan a few years ago. “It had a name but there weren’t any drawings as such. It was a concept.”His collaborator on the project, such as it was, was fellow Sinclair engineer John Mathieson, who said separately: “The idea was never more than a paper design.”

The team - fellow Sinclair techie Ben Cheese made a third member - began thinking about a new home machine after completing work on the Spectrum 128, a version of Sinclair’s stalwart that had been created for Spanish distributor Investrónica. In 1985, Spanish government decided to tax computers with 64KB or less memory, so Investrónica asked Sinclair to come up with a 128KB version. It was the same tax regime that prompted Amstrad to devise the CPC 472, a slightly more capacious version of the CPC 464 for the Spanish market.Brennan took the opportunity to revamp the machine, adding not just more memory but also the popular General Instruments AY-3-8912 chip for superior, three-channel sound routed out through the TV speaker, plus MIDI compatibility, a proper RS-232 serial port and RGB monitor output. The Basic was overhauled and given a new editor.The Spectrum 128 was first demo’d in public in September 1985 on its release in Spain, but didn’t go on sale in the UK until January 1986. By this point, Brennan, Cheese and Mathieson were wondering what to do next.

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“There remained a core group of people within Sinclair who wanted to continue selling cheap home computers with dual educational and game playing capabilities - machines that the kids would want and that parents would be willing to pay for. We were impressed when the Amiga came out [in 1985] because as a computer it seemed to fit that role perfectly,” said Mathieson. “We believed that the Amiga was over engineered. It could animate with sprites and with a blitter, for example, but why have both? We figured that if you could implement a system that could animate the screen then you only needed one set of hardware to do it. So we proposed a computer called ‘Loki’ as a Spectrum successor.”Ironically, the QL was at one point mooted as the foundation for a second-generation Spectrum. It would be based on the same Motorola 68008 processor as the QL, and use the QL’s two custom chips, which were modified during development to accommodate this new role. Yet the notion fell out of favour, and ultimately Sinclair would choose instead to give the existing Spectrum a new, QL-style case and call it the Spectrum Plus.

Had the Loki specifications been defined to any extent? Sinclair User magazine claimed in June 1986 that Loki would feature a 7MHz Z80H processor, 128KB of RAM and two custom chips: one for sound, the other for graphics. The latter would deliver three different modes: 512 x 256 pixels with 16 colours, 256 x 212 with 256 colours, or 256 x 212 with 64 colours. The video chip, dubbed “Rasterop” by the magazine, would have sprite animation and collision hardware built in.Backward compatibility would be provided for the original 48KB Spectrum thanks to a copy of its ROM, and the Z80H able to flip from 7MHz to 3.5MHz - presumably why this chip, normally rated at 8MHz, was set to run at the lower speed.

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