The first Bus Master SCSI adapters were delivered in 1987. At that time almost all PC’s ran single tasking operating systems. This situation persisted until 1995 when Windows 95, the first personal operating system that supported multitasking was released. As a result, virtually every benchmark done by the major PC magazines showed that Bus Master SCSI controllers were slower than PIO adapters (including IDE) when running DOS or Windows. The only exceptions to this were “cache” controllers which had large local memory to speed up data transfer.
A small company has limited resources. Future Domain was a bootstrap company, until 1989 we had no outside financing. I decided that we should address the largest part of the market, and PIO made the most sense in doing that. This was the correct decision. Future Domain shipped more host adapters than any other company until 1989. From 1989 until 1991 our lack of a 16 bit PIO product impacted our sales, but we were able to recover from that situation. By 1995 we were shipping close to 1 million adapters a year, but at an average price of about $30 each our revenue was far less than that of Adaptec, whose adapters sold for hundreds of dollars.
It was clear to me by 1994 that things were going to change going forward. The MCA bus and the new PCI bus were designed for Bus Master type controllers. SCSI was moving to a new bus structure, and high speed serial buses for IO were gaining favor.
The key change was Intel finally decoupled their IO bus from the Memory bus in processors designed for PC’s. The newer Intel 486 and Pentium designs were more like low end mainframes such as the B5900. What allowed this was the doubling of LSI chip density every couple of years or so. In addition new operating systems were now multitasking. The same LSI economics made it possible to build a Bus Master controller in a single chip, almost as inexpensively as a PIO adapter. In the coming years Future Domain would have to embrace new technology if it were to keep on growing. In 1992 PIO host adapters were still a profitable and growing business and would remain so for a few more years. Bus Master Adapters were also a growing business, and luckily for us we were able to “buy” our way into the business and learn what it was all about.