Digital signal processor pioneer Texas Instruments Inc. last week announced that it had demonstrated a 1GHz DSP, reaching an unprecedented performance level the company said might even help bring improved eyesight to the vision-impaired.
"This is a historic moment for TI and real-time signal processing," said Tom Engibous, chairman, president, and chief executive of TI, during an analysts' conference call last week. "One gigahertz is an enormous milestone for DSP, which even before this development had leap-frogged microprocessing as the primary catalyst for innovation and growth in electronics."
Researchers at the University of Southern California are developing artificial-vision equipment using high-performance DSPs. A 1GHz DSP would improve the visibility possible in implanted electronic systems in a human retina from a current 16 pixels to 1,000 pixels. At 1,000 pixels, the artificial-vision equipment could help create images that show both shape and light texture for vision-impaired people, said Ray Simar, TI fellow and advanced DSP architectures manager.
The announcement comes about a month after Dallas-based TI announced what was then the fastest DSP, a 720MHz device. The 1GHz DSP is scheduled to be available in the first half of next year as part of TI's TMS-320C64x family.
Engibous said pushing DSP to 1GHz and beyond "will open up brand new vistas for the electronics industry. Some pessimists think the electronics industry has matured and the good times are over for semiconductors. I couldn't disagree more. With signal processing, in fact, the best times are still ahead."
Mainstream applications that can take advantage of the increased performance include both wireless and wired telecom infrastructure equipment, which "re-quire an increasing number of voice and data channels to be supported in a given area," Simar said.
Jeff Bier, an analyst at Berkeley Design Technology Inc., Berkeley, Calif., said that while "clock rates clearly are not the only thing that matters, TI's 'C64x combines a high clock rate with the right kind of parallel processing for typical applications.
"While it isn't the right solution for every application, it does offer impressive performance and I'm sure there will be plenty of designers interested in tapping into this added performance," Bier said.
Greg Delagi, vice president in charge of TI's DSP business, said TI doesn't expect significant revenue to be generated by the 1GHz processors until 12 to 18 months after their introduction next year.
Simar said the 1GHz DSP should be able to operate with total power dissipation of less than 2W. Since the demonstration device was made in 0.13-micron technology and TI plans to run production parts in a 90nm process, clock cycles in excess of 1GHz are also likely in the near future, he said.