[Haskell-cafe] Re: Hardware

Jon Fairbairn jon.fairbairn at cl.cam.ac.uk
Fri Jun 1 15:17:07 EDT 2007

Andrew Coppin <andrewcoppin at btinternet.com> writes:

> OK, so... If you were going to forget everything we humans
> know about digital computer design - the von Neuman
> architecture, the fetch/decode/execute loop, the whole
> shooting match - and design a computer *explicitly* for the
> purpose of executing Haskell programs... what would it look
> like?

Back in the eighties (I don't remeber exactly when), Thomas
Clarke, Stuart Wray and I got together to think this through
(we had the possiblity of funding to make something).  We
had lots of ideas, but after much arguing back and forth the
conclusion we reached was that anything we could do would
either be slower than mainstream hardware or would be
overtaken by it in a very short space of time.  I'm not sure
that the conclusion still holds because conventional
architectures are approaching an impasse, but there's a lot
of force left in the arguments: most of the improvements I
can think of also benefit imperative languages, so if
they're worthwhile they'll happen anyway.

One of the things that is different now is the availability
of parallelism, but the mainstream is working pretty hard on
that. There's an opportunity there, in that functional
languages have some nice properties when it comes to
parallel execution, but to make an impact we'd have to get
on with it pretty sharpish.

Jón Fairbairn                                 Jon.Fairbairn at cl.cam.ac.uk

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