If we had known everything we now know about the SPARC project, we’d never have started it.” Incredible words spoken by Vinod Khosla, one of the engineers who architected Sun Microsystem’s revolutionary chip architecture a quarter of a century ago.
Khosla, now a venture capitalist whose investments help the dreams of other tech visionaries become a reality, has a point. And what it comes down to is simply this: where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Speaking at the 25th anniversary of SPARC’s launch, Khosla was emphatic that no matter how improbable something looked, it was worth attempting, even if others mocked the early attempts and doubted the idea’s ability to succeed.
After all, isn’t there the old myth that according to the laws of aerodynamics, bumblebees should be incapable of flight? Of course, bumblebees live in blissful ignorance of the laws of aerodynamics, and therefore, are not crippled by self-doubt every time they take to the air. Engineers facing skeptical investors and peers are not always so lucky.
“There are lots of risks we took that we shouldn’t prudently have taken,” Khosla said. “I say, take this as a model to go try it, go do it!”
All human progress depends on the unreasonable man, said Khosla, lamenting the lack of innovation in the modern chip space and imploring engineers to have the guts to go that one step further, beyond the logical, beyond the assumed possible.
“It can’t be that in 25 years there’s no need for an architecture change,” said Khosla, “I do urge people to go and innovate again and take larger, bolder risks.”
“We had engineering problems, the company was low on cash, we had no tools, few people, and we didn’t know it couldn’t be done,” added fellow founding engineer Bernard Lacroute. “Sometimes, when you don’t know something cannot be done, you can get it done.”
Indeed, as the founders reminisced, the theme came up over and over again. They had all been told multiple times that the idea made no business sense, and yet, they did it anyway.
“We knew the risks were enormous, but if you don’t take big bets, you’re never going to be great.”
Rather heroic in my opinion. A bright "sparc" to inspire the engineers of today to create the architectures of tomorrow. But that’s just my two cents. What do you think?
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