David Ditzel Interview at The Register/Semicoherent Computing

TheRegister Radio LogoThe Register has a few podcasts in addition to their website, and the one called “Semicoherent Computing” has turned into a very nice series of interviews with interesting people from the computer industry. I recently listened to their interview from September 2007 with David Ditzel of Transmeta fame. He had a lot to say about the history of computing, as well as interesting things on where computing is going. Well worth a listen! Particular interesting highlights…

  • How Transmeta pointed Intel and the industry into the right direction of lower power computing.
  • How multicore processing in the mainstream world (not embedded) can be seen as a way to keep the size of processor dies up in order to keep up prices of processors and keep all the fabs busy. For someone like an Intel, if they cannot add new complexity to their processor cores (which is practically the case today in David’s opinion), they would be stuck making processors half the size with each process generation. And pretty soon they would only need one fab to push out all the processors the world would ever need. So by using multicore, they can fill all the space they have in their fabs, space that has to be filled to keep the economic engine of Intel running. They need to keep making things more complex and to keep the die size about the same in each generation.
  • How Sun did business in the old 68k days, and how they are now doing business in x86 land.
  • The Elbrus company that Sun acquired, who had a pretty innovative VLIW design, and whose leading lights are now at Intel after a tour through Sun and Transmeta.
  • The coming-back of accelerators even in server/desktop computing. David has a take on the Sun Niagara design as a potential accelerator for web work, running alongside a Rock processor in the same chassis. And talks about rumored IBM work to the same effect, using a massively threaded Power Architecture design as an accelerator for certain types of jobs together with the main Power6 processor in a pSeries server. This is another argument in my ongoing homogeneous vs heterogeneous argument.

So it is both history, computer architecture, and business history and assessment all in one. As I said, highly recommended!

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