Wednesday, August 02, 2006


There is buzz about the move by Apple computer to using Intel chips inside.
CPU design is changing – evolving.
Time was - a couple of years ago – when the game was increasing clock speed was the way to increase performance.
Not no more.
Motorola and IBM tried to go back to basics with small instruction set CPUs a few years ago.
The idea was a CPU executing smaller instructions faster was better (faster) than a CPU executing complex instructions (like Intel).
That worked for about a year.
Apple bought into that idea and hung on to it until last year – to their cost.

AMD came along and tried to out-Intel Intel, and did for a while.
About a year.
But AMD began looking at the limits of physics and found that faster could only get you so far.
Then you set the chip on fire.
So they began designing chips that did not go faster – they went wider.
64 bit buss lines.

And now, multicore processors are coming.
Two CPUs on a chip.
The inspiration for this came from the video card makers.
NVidia and ATI and some others.
They have been working for years on trying to speed up the processing of video data so the gaming experience would be more realistic.
Gone are the days of Pong.
Video games generate tons of screen data that must be manipulated instantaneously.
The result of the video guys efforts was a processor on their card as powerful - and power hungry - and hot! – as the CPU for the whole rest of the computer.
In fact, the video processor was doing more work that the main CPU in some applications.

So the CPU guys took the hint – two processors were better than one. DUH!
In fact, two processors could run at slower speeds – use less power, and thus, produce less heat, than one big honkin processor running at 5 gigglebonkles.
So here they come – multicore CPUs.
Teamwork works.

AMD actually beat Intel to market on this design last year.
IBM announced this year that they are developing a CPU with 7 processors in it.
(why 7 and not 6 or 8 is a mystery to me because computers don’t do anything in odd numbers except 1.)
Intel announced the release of theirs last month.
AMD already has theirs out.

So now, instead of small instruction sets running super fast, a la Motorola/IBM/Apple, or long instruction sets runner even faster (and hotter), a la Intel/AMD/Sun, we now have banks of smaller CPUs running in parallel.
Cooler, faster (total thru-put), using less power.
And if two processors on a chip are good, how about 4?
Or 8?
This year it is two per chip.
Next year it will be four per chip.
The year after that.... 8?
Do I hear 16?

Oh, and guess what?
Last week, AMD bought ATI.
What do you want to bet that in a future generation AMD multicore CPU, one of the cores will be a dedicated graphics processor.
You saw it here first.


Anonymous said...

Wow!! Your observation and detail on things reminds me of someone else I know named Jef -- you two ought to get together...your deep observation and rhetoric is amazinging similar!!

Paw said...

Never heard of him.
Does he live around here?


April 15 th of 2013 was my last year to work for HR Block. I disliked the corporate pressure to make us call customers to try ...