Winner, Name that Ware February 2018

The ware for February 2018 is an Ethernet card by Digitel, a Brazilian manufacturer, circa 1992. Brazil is an interesting market because protectionist trade measures made import electronics very expensive. The nominal theory, as it was explained to me, was to protect and encourage local industries, thus creating and maintaining high-paying local jobs. I had never seen a piece of electronics from Brazil, but indeed, many of the circuit board’s components bear company logos I had never seen before and a Brazilian country of origin. While at least facially it seems the trade policies created local jobs, a comparison of this card to its contemporaries outside Brasil — such as this 1992-vintage SMC “Elite 16” Ethernet card featured at vintagecomputer.net — gives a hint at how these policies might have also impeded the progress of technology.

While 0x3d named the ware almost immediately, I really appreciated the cultural insight that Paulo Peres shared about the ware. For example, the fact that the ROM labeled MAQUEST is probably “MAQuina de ESTado” (state machine) and could have been a hack at the time to use locally-produced components to substitute for imported components. Even though in a free market a ceramic EEPROM + 74-series registers would be much more expensive than a PAL, the fact that the EEPROM and registers were produced in Brazil would have made the combo cheaper than an imported PAL once the trade tariffs were factored in. So congrats Paulo, email me for your prize! Although, my understanding is the trade barriers are still in place to this day, so maybe sending you something from overseas would cost you much more duty than it’s worth if you’re located in Brazil… :-O

2 Responses to “Winner, Name that Ware February 2018”

  1. Juliane says:

    While your theory is interesting it should be pointed out that there is actually a chip labelled “PAL16L8” and “BRASIL” on the board, so they obviously had locally sourced PALs.

  2. mrHamster says:

    bunnie, since 1992 there are no more restrictions on imports in Brazil. as a consequence, very little production in electronics, with a few lasting companies. as it turns out, the higher ups prefer to put their money in the banks and wait for the interest than to invest in their own country. the debate for whether protectionist measures are good or bad may be out of the scope here, but what I can say is that at least we had our own electronics industry back then.

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