Configurable Thoughts


In just a few short years

On May 7, 1997 Intel introduced the Pentium II at 233MHz. That was the state of the art for microprocessors and computers just 13 years ago. Today if I gave you a computer with a Pentium II you wouldn’t be able to use it. It is not capable of running a modern operating system.  Microprocessors and software has been transformed over the past 13 years.  The processors that are embedded in our electronic gadget have been transformed as well.  For example, a microprocessor (ARC 601) that we released for deeply embedded applications just over a year ago, runs at 532MHz in 65G process and occupies less than four hundreds of a square millimeter (0.039mm2). This ultra-compact processor in many ways has more performance than the Pentium II had but it can fit 2 ½ times in the dot at the end of a sentence in a 12 point font.

That level of performance density is enabling products like tablet PCs, smart phones, and many of the products that we use every day and take for granted. And, the pace of innovation continues and not just in the processors but also in software. It is said that software programs expand to fill the memory space available to hold them, and memory densities are increasing as fast as processor performance densities. With the increasing availability of memory it is not surprising that we are seeing innovation like the Android OS going on in the software realm. By separating the underlying processor hardware from the application software that runs on it Android is enabling application developers to innovate at a faster rate, while enabling their applications to run on a broader range of platforms. This in turn is leading to new capabilities and innovation in the electronic products that we use every day.

Can you imagine what our world will look like 13 years from now!  In 2024 will your laptop shrink into your mobile phone? Will the holodeck from Star Trek science fiction be a reality? Will cars drive themselves? We don’t know, but we will explore in this blog what is happening in the realm of processors, software and tools that is taking us there. It is truly an exciting time to be alive.