[Haskell-cafe] Re: Hardware

Claus Reinke claus.reinke at talk21.com
Fri Jun 1 19:59:27 EDT 2007

> either be slower than mainstream hardware or would be
> overtaken by it in a very short space of time.  

i'd like to underline the last of these two points, and i'm impressed 
that you came to that conclusion as early as the eighties. i'm not 
into hardware research myself, but while i was working on my 
MSc, a couple of PhD students in the same group were developing 
an abstract machine and a hardware realisation (that must have 
been very early nineties?) for a reduction language (purely functional).

unlike earlier designs, the hardware only leaned toward functional, 
rather than being specific to it (mostly RISC, with large register 
files organised as very fast stack windows for a small number 
of stacks), and numbers from the hand-configured prototype 
suggested that it would be about twice as fast as contemporary 
standard hardware. which was great, until it became clear that,
in the time it would have taken to go from that prototype to 
production, the next generation of that standard hardware 
would have been on the market, also twice as fast (with the
next next generation already on its way)..

for a non-fp example, see the one-laptop-per-child project:
now that they're actually looking for firm orders, they have the
first mainstream competitors, and anything those do, they tend
to do with a lot of backup, and twice as well a short time later..

the suggestion that the mainstream might be running out of
steam along one particular dimension is interesting, but in 
my naive view, there is still the difference between any one-shot
research project and a snapshot in a development pipeline of 
great momentum (are they still running several overlapping
teams to double the flow through that pipeline?).

i wouldn't want to dishearten anyone, though. just try not to
aim for a single piece of hardware, but for a suitable change
to one of those mainstream development pipelines, perhaps?


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