In my junior year of college, my roommate and I decided to move into the Engineering dorm to hopefully enjoy a more peaceful environment that might allow us to stay on top of our crushing course loads. The university decided that in the interest of academic diversity, they’d sprinkle a few non-engineering folks in the dorm. Our room was next to a non-engineering major who partied hard enough to drive his roommate out and thus garner the whole room to himself. He was barely hanging on academically with a 2.0 average.
One night during semester finals, he had 20 people in his tiny room with the music on full well past midnight. My roommate and I had an 8am final exam. After repeated attempts to reason with them failed, we came up with a plan. Some quick checking confirmed our two rooms shared a 20 Amp electrical circuit. We also knew the circuit breaker closet was locked and the facilities crew wouldn’t answer a call at that hour.
We quickly got 30 amps worth of toasters and hotplates from other folks on the floor who wanted the party shut down. After plugging everything in we simply waited a minute and as expected the circuit breaker blew, plunging the partiers into darkness and quiet. They poured out into the hallway wondering what happened. We explained that their stereo was so powerful it knocked out the power for the whole floor. After they slapped each other on the back in congratulations, they quickly decided the party was no longer fun in that room and took the party to a room a few buildings down. Our entire floor went to sleep smiling.
Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.