"Why can't my robot sing and dance at the same time?" asked Professor David May as he proposed a processor that implements a simplified ARM instruction set.
Professor May's project to develop a very simple parallel processor is
based on ARM. "We were foolish enough to try and adopt a version of the
ARM and I extracted about 30 instructions from the Thumb instruction set
and wrote a compiler for them," he said.
Professor May has
considered an implementation of this re-RISCed version of an ARM
processor that can be laid out on a bench to demonstrate the internal
workings to first-year computer science students. In email
correspondence with EE Times Professor May said he would probably
continue to use this stripped-down ARM so that students would gain
understanding into a "real machine."
However, Professor May is
also working on an even simpler processor architecture and compiler
pairing that would support concurrency, based on work that pre-dates the
transputer. This would allow students to build a multiprocessor from a
kit of parts. "I also have a hunch that this processor may be very
efficient and when I've finalized it I'm interested in getting it (or a
lot of them) built on a chip," said Professor May in the email.
his lecture Professor May also talked of extending the work into a
Raspberry Pi-style schools' project. "If I can get parallel computing
into the schools that will be a great achievement, because then we
wouldn't get all these kids thinking the world is sequential."
May then related a question asked by a colleague's 10-year-old child.
"Why can't my robot sing and dance at the same time?" was asked by
someone yet to indoctrinated into thinking that programming is
inherently sequential, Professor May observed.
The footnote to
Professor May's talk was a reminder that 2014 will be the 30th
anniversary of the launch of the transputer and its dedicated
programming language Occam.
Professor said it would be an
interesting exercise to produce a 2014 version of the transputer using
contemporary process technology. Professor May estimates that a square
centimeter of silicon today could hold up to 4,000 tranputers. "You
might decide to trade off a bit of that for memory," he conceded.
Professor May also speculated that due to the transputer's
architecture's simplicity it would be extremely fast. Meeting to discuss
such a project would at least be a good excuse for a party, he
Related links and articles:
Multicore Challenge 2013
Professor May's home page (including links to short-Thumb)
Transputer's inventor raises funding for processor architecture
China startup rolls 'unified' Android processor
ARM, Sonics make interconnect licensing deal