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Torvalds's Former Company Transmeta Acquired and Gone

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the here's-to-you-mister-robinson dept.

Transmeta 150

desmondhaynes sends along a posting from the TechWatch blog detailing the sale of Transmeta (most recently discussed here). Linus moved ten time-zones west, from Finland to Santa Clara, CA, to join Transmeta in March 1997, before this community existed. Here is our discussion of the announcement of the Crusoe processor from 2000. Our earliest discussion of Transmeta was the 13th Slashdot story. "Transmeta, once a sparkling startup that set out to beat Intel and AMD in mobile computing, announced that it will be acquired by Novafora. The company's most famous employee, Linux inventor Linus Torvalds, kept the buzz and rumor mill about the company throughout its stealth phase alive and guaranteed a flashy technology announcement in early 2000. Almost nine years later Transmeta's journey is over." Update: 11/21 16:25 GMT by KD : It's not the 13th Slashdot story, only the 13th currently in the database. We lost the first 4 months at one point.

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Anonymous (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845387)

first

The LiNuX curse (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846073)

It hits whoever has Linux roots.

I have a tiny, tiny penis (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845401)

As a consultant for several large companies, I'd always done my work on
Windows. Recently however, a top online investment firm asked us to do
some work using Linux. The concept of having access to source code was
very appealing to us, as we'd be able to modify the kernel to meet our
exacting standards which we're unable to do with Microsoft's products.

Although we met several technical challenges along the way
(specifically, Linux's lack of Token Ring support and the fact that we
were unable to defrag its ext2 file system), all in all the process
went smoothly. Everyone was very pleased with Linux, and we were
considering using it for a great deal of future internal projects.

So you can imagine our suprise when we were informed by a lawyer that
we would be required to publish our source code for others to use. It
was brought to our attention that Linux is copyrighted under something
called the GPL, or the Gnu Protective License. Part of this license
states that any changes to the kernel are to be made freely available.
Unfortunately for us, this meant that the great deal of time and money
we spent "touching up" Linux to work for this investment firm would
now be available at no cost to our competitors.

Furthermore, after reviewing this GPL our lawyers advised us that any
products compiled with GPL'ed tools - such as gcc - would also have to
its source code released. This was simply unacceptable.

Although we had planned for no one outside of this company to ever
use, let alone see the source code, we were now put in a difficult
position. We could either give away our hard work, or come up with
another solution. Although it was tought to do, there really was no
option: We had to rewrite the code, from scratch, for Windows 2000.

I think the biggest thing keeping Linux from being truly competitive
with Microsoft is this GPL. Its draconian requirements virtually
guarentee that no business will ever be able to use it. After my
experience with Linux, I won't be recommending it to any of my
associates. I may reconsider if Linux switches its license to
something a little more fair, such as Microsoft's "Shared Source".
Until then its attempts to socialize the software market will insure
it remains only a bit player.

Thank you for your time.

Your are full of shit! (0, Troll)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845499)

You are a liar and an idiot. Learn to fucking read your clueless fucking piece of shit morong. Fuck you and your descendents for 100 generations. You are a total piece of shit.

Re:Your are full of shit! (1, Funny)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845833)

"morong" at least he can spell correctly. :)

Re:Your are full of shit! (1, Redundant)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846059)

I loved that too :D

Re:Your are full of shit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25847255)

surely you have seen a cut and paste troll before, the bait was cast and you bit
learn from the experience.

Re:I have a tiny, tiny penis (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845507)

moron!

Re:I have a tiny, tiny penis (2, Funny)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845519)

For me, the real problem is that when you sacrificing babies using Linux, they all have to be sacrificed to GPL dieties. This makes the GPL a real ball and chain. With Windows, your baby sacrificing is less constrained. Sure you need to tithe a modest 80% of your baby sacrifices to the dark lords of Redmond, but the rest can be to whomever you desire as long as it's not an open source diety. So seriously, what's not to love with Windows? And the UI is so much better.

Re:I have a tiny, tiny penis (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845669)

Try hiring a lawyer who knows what he or she is talking about. Specific problems with what you've said:

(a) If your kernel mods are for internal use only, you do NOT have to publish the source
(b) You don't have to publish source just because you compiled the binary with gcc

Also it's the GNU Public License.

Finally, if you want a UNIX with an open-source kernel and you don't want to be constrained by the GPL, there is always Solaris.

Hope you enjoyed your feeding.

BSD? (0, Offtopic)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845797)

Have you looked at BSD instead? Its an open free operating system, but the licence allows you to not publish any changes you make to it. There are many flavours to choose from, OpenBSD, NetBSD, FreeBSD, and DragonflyBSD.

I refuse to believe.... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845429)

that something Linus worked on was a failure.

You mean he's human after all?

Oh the humanity.

Re:I refuse to believe.... (1)

Macrat (638047) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846545)

Worked on?

More like he was hired to sit in an office and be their "star" power.

Re:I refuse to believe.... (3, Informative)

hpa (7948) | more than 5 years ago | (#25848703)

Worked on?
More like he was hired to sit in an office and be their "star" power.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Out of the five major components of the Crusoe firmware -- the dynamic translator, interpreter, nucleus (mini-OS), virtual I/O, and out-of-line handlers ("microcode"), Linus was the driving force, designer and primary implementor of one (the interpreter.) He eventually transitioned into an "advanced research" role, working on more "far out" projects.

You might find this link [uspto.gov] interesting.

Re:I refuse to believe.... (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846553)

Hey, at least it's not something Theo worked on. Then we'd see fireworks.

If you can read this, fuck you. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845449)

niggers honkies spics wops kykes wetbacks chinks dune-coons prairie-niggers ... did I leave anyone out?

Re:If you can read this, fuck you. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845465)

THE JEWS, YOU IDIOT

Re:If you can read this, fuck you. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846115)

Indeed. I call for another holocaust. Fucking ineccifient Hitler, failing to kill all the fuckers. I will start another reigh and exterminate all of muslims too. I have no objections to other niggers or spinks, but god damn muslims and jews should be shot.

Re:If you can read this, fuck you. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846453)

Indeed. I call for another holocaust. Fucking ineccifient Hitler, failing to kill all the fuckers. I will start another reigh and exterminate all of muslims too. I have no objections to other niggers or spinks, but god damn muslims and jews should be shot.

Put them in a room together and the problem is solved.

Re:If you can read this, fuck you. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846811)

-1 offtopic and offensive

Re:If you can read this, fuck you. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845609)

you forgot the slurpee indians.

dune-coons is so offensive, I prefer the term sand niggers.

Re:If you can read this, fuck you. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25847097)

You forgot the sand niggers.

Very telling..... (5, Insightful)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845451)

From the article:

Transmeta today announced that Novafora will acquire Transmeta and its assets for $255.6 million in cash.

Transmeta's cash, cash equivalents and short term investments at September 30, 2008 totaled $255.2 million.

So, the entire worth of the company intellectual property was about $0.4M?

Layne

Re:Very telling..... (2, Informative)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845541)

So, the entire worth of the company intellectual property was about $0.4M?

Probably offset against debt.

Re:Very telling..... (5, Informative)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845599)

I'll just leave this [lightreading.com] here.

Re:Very telling..... (3, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845585)

Most of their $250M is from a recent settlement with Intel. They won't be getting any more money from THAT source.

Re:Very telling..... (1)

djseomun (1119637) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846889)

From the article:

Transmeta today announced that Novafora will acquire Transmeta and its assets for $255.6 million in cash.

Transmeta's cash, cash equivalents and short term investments at September 30, 2008 totaled $255.2 million.

So, the entire worth of the company intellectual property was about $0.4M?

Layne

The excess $400,000 paid for Transmeta is not necessarily intellectual property. Under financial accounting, it is considered "goodwill."

Re:Very telling..... (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#25848375)

That sounds about right. The adaptive compiler CPU idea was very intriguing (sort of like Hot Spot [sun.com] for x86 code) but nothing really useful seems to have come out of it.

I used to own a Crusoe-based laptop. It ran hot, and battery life was unimpressive. So where's the alleged benefit for this technology?

Re:Very telling..... (1)

home-electro.com (1284676) | more than 5 years ago | (#25848797)

I have one lappy with Transmeta CPU. Runs HORRIBLY slow, worth than PII@233MHz (which I had at that time).
Battery life is nothing impressive. Practically unusable machine.

Re:Very telling..... (1)

home-electro.com (1284676) | more than 5 years ago | (#25848741)

I noticed that too... But not just intellectual property. Intellectual property and all of it's assets!

"March 1997, before this community existed" (1)

Tribbin (565963) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845469)

Whot?

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845621)

I'm pretty sure *checks* yep, I was running RedHat in 1995. And it was version 2.0

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845643)

Pretty sure I was using Linux and IRCing and posting to the mailing list before 1997. And, unless I imagined the whole thing, I wasn't talking to myself. I was begging people for help to upgrade Slackware libc or get X to work with my video card.

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (2, Informative)

Jester998 (156179) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845735)

Pretty sure they're talking about the Slashdot "community" -- Slashdot was founded in Sept 2007.

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845793)

But why is it relevant to put that in the summary?

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25847323)

This is /.

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (0)

Cynic9 (842597) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845819)

Wow, seems older than that =P ...by 10 years and stuff.

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846893)

Pretty sure they're talking about the Slashdot "community" -- Slashdot was founded in Sept 2007.

Now just wait a minute. Just wait one minute here. Did we have some sort of temporal field anomaly? I could have sworn I was wasting time on Slashdot for years. Guess it's the Alzheimer's again. Or the coffee. Or maybe we can blame it on George Bush...

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (2, Informative)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845795)

As much on slashdot this is self-referential, i.e. "this community" = Slashdot, and if you take this frame of reference "March 1997, before this community existed" is indeed correct [wikipedia.org] :

# July 1997 - shortlived forerunner to Slashdot, called "Chips & Dips"
# September 1997 - Slashdot is created.

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845915)

Hint: this community = Slashdot.

Re:"March 1997, before this community existed" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846629)

*deep breath*

They said, "MARCH 1997, BEFORE THIS COMMUNITY EXISTED!!!"

*pant pant*

Anybody else think that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845491)

...it's ironic that the man who much of the world considers one of the primary founding fathers of the Open Source revolution, seems to have wasted so many productive years of his young adulthood working for a company that fizzled out into vaporware?

Re:Anybody else think that... (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845769)

I'm not sure why that is ironic. Edison spent a lot of time failing. Ruth struck out a great many times.... this list can go on.

Now if he were a skydiver, that early failure might have put an end to the story, but still, no irony.

Re:Anybody else think that... (1)

xoundmind (932373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846041)

Very few things that are labeled as ironic actually are. In fact, it's probably one of the most misused words in the English language.

Re:Anybody else think that... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846077)

How ironic.

Re:Anybody else think that... (1)

Odin's Raven (145278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846185)

Very few things that are labeled as ironic actually are. In fact, it's probably one of the most misused words in the English language.

Man, that's just so ironic.





:-P

Re:Anybody else think that... (4, Funny)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846295)

Note to Alanis Morisette: Rain on your wedding day is only ironic if you're marrying a weatherman

Re:Anybody else think that... (1)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846515)

I heard that she claimed that the whole song was ironic because the song titled Ironic had nothing ironic in it. Really.

She whined because Dave "Uncle Joey" Coultier... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25848823)

He cheated on her or didn't lick her mangina or somthing. I wouldn't blame Brother Dave for not servicing such a virulent wretch as Alanis Morisette. Just her name sounds like somthing I would imagine myself yelling before plumetting to my death from the ballast chamber ejecting the alien waste byproducts to gain lift-off from that Prison Planet that lt. Ripley saved me from. It's obvious that Dave was given a choice: do you wat to die on your knees begging, or do you want to die on your feet running?

Re:Anybody else think that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846623)

And, getting stuck in traffic when you are already late is only ironic if you were a civil engineer in charge of a recent project to revamp the roads, and you are on your way to a press conference to brag about your agency's accomplishments.

maybe its meta (1)

uberjoe (726765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25847181)

Whats really ironic is a song called Ironic with no irony in it at all.

Re:Anybody else think that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25848551)

Singing a song about irony, which is full of non-ironic references and contains to true irony, is itself ironic.

Re:Anybody else think that... (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#25848679)

Can we stop this now? My head hurts

Re:Anybody else think that... (2, Informative)

Zwicky (702757) | more than 5 years ago | (#25848927)

For anyone who's interested in Mr. Byrne slating the song here you go [youtube.com] .

Comedians the world over must have kicked themselves when they first saw Ed' routine. A collective "D'oh! Why didn't I think of that!"

As Ed says, the only thing ironic about that song is that it was a song about irony written by someone who doesn't know what irony is.

Define "wasted" (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846441)

If you count something as "wasted" just because it was a part of something that failed many years later, then virtually all of humanity's efforts are wasted in the long run.

E.g., what was the point of building cities and inventing civilization in Mesopotamia, since millenia later it fell to the semitic populations, then to the iranians (indo-europeans), and finally to the arabs? Even Sumerian, the language of the first human civilization, soon was a dead language kept just for religious services and texts. (Much like what millenia later would happen to Latin.) Was Hammurabi's life wasted on working on that law code and construction and whatnot, since he worked for Babylon which later got conquered by Assyria and today is just a bunch of ruins?

Was the life of every Roman that ever lived wasted, because their country would eventually implode and be conquered by a tribe as primitive as the Longobards?

Was Egipt all a big waste for that same reason?

Sometimes it makes sense to live in the present. It matters what you do now, not what will become of it in 10 years. What may make a difference in the long run is that you were one of the guys who tried and contributed a bit to the advancement of technology/culture/whatever, not whether you left some monumental legacy that will for ever be intact. Because if you're aiming for the latter, you might as well give up now, 'cause in the long run everything turns to dust.

Even the the Great Lighthouse, or the Colosus of Rhodes, or whatever, eventually turned to little more than ruins or disappeared altogether. Was it a waste of someone's years to build them? Well, no, they served their purpose while they existed, _and_ more importantly humanity learned something new in the process. Even if it's how to stack a lot of bricks to build a f-ing huge lighthouse. The road to the mighty gothic cathedrals of later, or to the Hagia Sophia, goes through such earlier achievements. Even if the grand monumental testament to someone's work is gone, their contribution to the species' knowledge lived on and accumulated.

Plus, in this case we're not even talking about some personal failure, but the failure of one company he worked for. Well, gee.

Re:Define "wasted" (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846873)

I knew there was a reason you were a Foe.

Re:Define "wasted" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25848393)

You had me at wasted ..

Re:Define "wasted" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25848749)

Ok, I think we get your point, you don't have to repeat yourself 10 times like you're on digg :)

Not so wasted. Ask Christ Jesus and he'd say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25848995)

All this time was a sacrifice to get from point to point in an uncertain origin and destination despite known casualties along that way and mode. Who would have known that a telescope could put a man on Mars before even knowing how to walk his first steps or even fly? Societal order does equally as much harm as good will depending whose hands or subserviance it is in.

Re:Anybody else think that... (2, Informative)

orasio (188021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846839)

Define "founding fathers".
Linus is a good programmer. There are several good programmers who could write a kernel, specially the kind he wrote.
The GNU project was well underway when he started working with Linux, so he was no needed to found any revolution. Maybe adoption of free software would have been slowed, but things would not be much worse w/o him.

Re:Anybody else think that... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25847189)

Things would probably be better. Without crappy linux, better OSes could actually prosper. Maybe we'd still have OS/2 today.

news getting ahead of itself (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845509)

This may not be a done deal. Some stockholders are suing, trying to block the sale, because the price is equivalent to the cash on hand, investments, and tangible assets. It appears to value the IP at $0 and the stockholders think Transmeta is worth more.

Post #0 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25845511)

You lose, "first post" idiot.

The 13th Slashdot story? (5, Funny)

Crizp (216129) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845665)

Makes me feel old... oh wait I am. Crap.

Re:The 13th Slashdot story? (0, Redundant)

billwho (1275376) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845777)

LOL

Re:The 13th Slashdot story? (1)

pete_norm (150498) | more than 5 years ago | (#25848405)

They should have gone directly from story 12 to story 14. Being story 13 doomed Transmeta in the long run...

kinda sad (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845809)

it's kinda sad. They tried. But the juggernauts ran them right over. Their technology was gee-whizzy and innovative. But they had a hard job getting anybody to buy into such a radical change.

Re:kinda sad (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845995)

"But they had a hard job getting anybody to buy into such a radical change."

They didn't offer any CPU/motherboard combos to leverage Linux community participation, so it is obvious they did not want that. Mobo/CPU combos would have gotten exposure that merely going B2B couldn't buy.

If your product is hardware your community can't buy, you cannot leverage their support very well.

Re:kinda sad (1)

tchuladdiass (174342) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846671)

Not only that, they kept the low-level VLIW (very long instruction word) interface to their chips a secret. I think, especially running Linux, that it would have given them a huge performance boost if you could run native VLIW-compiled code directly on the chip instead of going through the x86 emulation layer.

Re:kinda sad (3, Informative)

default luser (529332) | more than 5 years ago | (#25847111)

But that was done on purpose, so they wouldn't hit the obvious wall that hurts all VLIW architectures: increasing IPC without changing the architecture, and without adding all the complex re-ordering logic seen in RISC-like superscalar processors. Once you get above one VLIW per clock, you have to throw the compiler's assumptions out the window, or you need to re-compile the code.

If you don't have to support the old architecture, you can change it to increase IPC without excessive overhead. This was the concept behind adding an interpreter layer between the chip and the OS. Of course, they didn't realize that they were trading one performance bugaboo for another: instead of making a bigger, more expensive chip, they sapped tons of performance doing x86 instruction transation and re-ordering in software. This cost them tons of performannce, as a lot of the time, their VLIW pipeline was only %50 filled.

Transmeta had the same problem Intel did with Itanium: with the exception of perfectly tailored code, the VLIW compiler couldn't keep processor resource utilization anywhere near %100. Transmeta had one additional problem over Intel: their compiler had to work in REAL TIME, with a tiny 16 or 32MB buffer. It's no wonder they got toasted by the x86 market..Itanium, even with Intel backing, is on the way to a similar fate.

Re:kinda sad (2, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846075)

But they had a hard job getting anybody to buy into such a radical change.

That's not too surprising, due to the disappointing fact that once their product finally hit the market, it wasn't significantly more efficient than its conventional competitors.

Re:kinda sad (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846299)

I do wonder if they could have done better if they'd tried to support more architectures. If they'd been able to run PowerPC code as well then they'd have been very attractive to Apple - low power, and compatibility with both x86 and PowerPC code. They might have picked up a lot of business from big UNIX customers if they'd been able to migrate to something that could run both their legacy PA-RISC, Alpha, and so on code and also x86 code.

Re:kinda sad (3, Informative)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846371)

The raw performance of the chips wasn't very good either. They were low power and low performance in a ratio that didn't provide any benefits over Intel's solutions.

Plus working with small companies for such a vital part, wasn't in apple's interest. I think Apple learned its lesson working with Motorola. As big as it was, Motorola couldn't fulfill apple's meager request for power pc chips, nor could it fund development of faster chips.

Did any of us seriously think it was going to work (2, Interesting)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845837)

That a small start up could take on Intel in a serious way? Sure you can make processors for some narrowly defined market that Intel might not be interested in pursuing. But at the time (this was before Pentium M and Centrino) Intel's mobile offerings were embarssing, and Intel was hurting to push something out quickly that could solve the mobile problem. Even at that time laptops were consider the wave of the future, and I think we can safely assume that Intel and AMD both realized that the laptop market was only going to grow much larger.

Do you really jump in between Intel and AMD when they are both scrambling to come out with a solution first for a low power mobile chip with good performance? It didn't make sense to me then, and it doesn't make sense looking back on it.

Sorry to be so critical of Transmeta, but I really couldn't see them achieving anything more than Cyrix/VIA with the Crusoe architecture, as novel as it was.

The only thing that I thought might save them from the beating they received from Intel was the Efficeon. Having worked with product development for blades and modules, there are some serious power constraints in many of these products. And if you can get even a few more MIPS per Watt it can make the difference between being able to run an application or not. For application-oriented blades and modules (for example, Cisco NM, AIM and blades) the ability to have a little more oomph means you can offer more connections per blade or more features or do products that you could not do before. (afaik Cisco never used the Efficeon)

Re:Did any of us seriously think it was going to w (0, Offtopic)

homer_s (799572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846351)

Did anyone seriously think that 2 students would be able to take on Yahoo and MS and win?

Re:Did any of us seriously think it was going to w (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846655)

Yes. The web search/advertising market was very young, Yahoo! and MS's search engines sucked, their designs were fundamentally wrong for the direction the web was going, they showed no indication that they were going to make any meaningful changes.

The CPU market was not young, Intel and AMD had decent products, and they were pouring resources into R&D.

Re:Did any of us seriously think it was going to w (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846519)

People like you said the same thing about Nvidia. Sometimes it works, others not. I'd like to see your international corporation and IP, almighty one.

Re:Did any of us seriously think it was going to w (5, Informative)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846701)

That a small start up could take on Intel in a serious way?

Well, that wasn't what killed them. There are many stories of garage companies taking on the fat, lazy big boys and winning (Microsoft/Apple against IBM, for one).

What killed them was the Fundamentally Wrong Approach. They wanted to, in essence, make a "magic optimizer" that would take Intel instructions and convert them to run on a very simple, low-power device. The "magic optimizer" was left as an "exercise to the geniuses". The business plan for that consisted solely of hand waving. "Hey, we'll just hire smart people and let them figure it out."

Unfortunately, optimization is a notoriously difficult problem, and is really a subset of Strong A.I. No one programs in assembly language these days, so one really understands how bad compilers really are at producing code, compared to human optimized code. Computers are so fast and programmers are so expensive, so we don't really care anymore.

Taking assembly and trying to translate/recompile it into another very-low-level assembly and do this on-the-fly without any time or performance penalty is a fool's game. It was never going to work. I could probably even dig up my posts on this subject way back when. :)

See also: VLIW processors, where the hardware guys fool themselves by saying, "the software guys will figure out how to compile to it."

No, not after the Pentium Pro (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25847615)

RISC machines made sense before Intel figured out to make x86 go faster than one instruction per clock. That happened with the Pentium Pro, which came out in 1995. (The Pentium II and III were basically Pentium Pro architecture, shrunk down to a single die in a newer fab.) Transmeta didn't announce a product until 2000.

Before the Pentium Pro, RISC architectures seemed to be the way forward. The RISC designs could get down to one instruction per clock, and they weren't that hard to design, because all the hard cases were prohibited. I met the design team for one of the MIPS CPU parts, and it was about 15 people.

Intel took on the insanely hard problem of making a superscalar x86 CPU. All the awful things that can happen in x86 code had to be handled, and not only handled, handled fast. The internal complexity of the Pentium Pro/II/III is huge. It took a design team of 3000 people at peak to bring it off, and a huge transistor count in the CPU. Yet they did it. With that architecture, they could beat one instruction per clock, which blew away the whole rationale for nice, simple RISC machines. Transistors on the chip had become cheap enough that a CPU with 5.5 million transistors was commercially feasible.

Along with blowing away RISC, that technology blew away Transmeta. Transmeta had an OK idea, but they were five years too late.

Not acurate on Pentium Pro vs Pentium II and III (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25848649)

A Pentium Pro was called that because it had on-die L2 cache that operated at core frequency, while Pentium II and Pentium III L2 was only operating on Bus frequency. Thus, a Pentium Pro 200MHz outperformed a Pentium II 400MHz (L2 under 100MHz Buz) and a Pentium III 700MHz (under a 133MHz Bus) just because it would have that 256KB or sometimes 512KB or 1MB of L2 that smacked-down the recent fast-talking bitches from Intel. I, personally, put my money on DEC and Microway Alpha workstations and rackmount servers classes 21164 and 21364. After Pentium Pro, Intel has been cheating with instruction set and fangled architecture glitches patched to a stable initialization. Every chip they design is built to fail to a model number on fabrication only detectable to a circuit test of an original design. It's amazing how they are crippleware, while the likes of Transmeta, SGI, DEC Alpha, and Hitachi Super-H get the boot despite 100% Linux server and workstation support all these years. Of'couse AMD is only the bitchboys of Intel wads.

Re:Did any of us seriously think it was going to w (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25848005)

Compilers are actually extremely good. I'm pretty sure it's been a while since a compiler can beat most of the hand-written assembly out there, unless it's written by a true guru (and there's very very few of them out there - not because assembly is not as common, but because it's hard to write optimized code).

In fact, even all modern x86, from what I've read, have for a long time been doing translation. None of them do CISC internally anymore, instead having a RISC-translation layer because there's plenty of die space. CISC decoders are more complicated (dunno if slower, although unlikely) & converting to RISC allows you to add more pipelining (better performance).

The reason Transmeta had worse performance is that they did the CISC translation in software. They decided their focus was on power consumption, not performance - hence their design decisions. The technology is certainly amazing and worked for them. They weren't targeting 0-overhead translation.

Also, I'd disagree that compiler optimization is a subset of Strong AI (I'm assuming here you mean human-level intelligence). It's on the same level as path-finding, which isn't even close to Strong AI.

On a side note, architectural changes are far more likely to give you your performance improvements than optimizing with assembly or getting a better compiler.

Also, please back up your claim that a compiler generates worse code than a human. Provide example C code where your assembly is better than what gcc produces at O2.

Re:Did any of us seriously think it was going to w (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 5 years ago | (#25848173)

Also, please back up your claim that a compiler generates worse code than a human. Provide example C code where your assembly is better than what gcc produces at O2.

Well, I was willing to maybe believe that you might know what you were talking about, until this... 'gcc' is a notoriously bad optimizer compared to commercial compilers (especially Intel's compiler). The advantage of 'gcc' is that it's common and portable, not that it's a good optimizer.

Compilers are actually extremely good. I'm pretty sure it's been a while since a compiler can beat most of the hand-written assembly out there, unless it's written by a true guru (and there's very very few of them out there - not because assembly is not as common, but because it's hard to write optimized code).

Let me guess... you've never programmed in assembly language in your life. Funny that it's only people who have little experience with writing in assembly language that believe this. It's also only people who have never written in assembly who believe that it's hard.

But if you want proof, look at Photoshop, where filters are commonly written in assembly language for performance reasons.

Transmeta competed with Intel (4, Informative)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845873)

and Intel ran them out of business like so many others.

Intel ran Cyrix, Centaur, out of business and they got bought out. Intel stopped NEC (Remember the V20 CPU that replaced the 8088?), and almost ran VIA and AMD out of business.

Re:Transmeta competed with Intel (2, Insightful)

Kindaian (577374) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846009)

You are forgetting ARM, Alpha, and several others... (from SIG if i recall). Ones got brought, others just faded away...

Re:Transmeta competed with Intel (1)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846061)

ARM is very popular for embedded systems.

Re:Transmeta competed with Intel (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846321)

Yup, ARM is really hurting badly, what with out-selling x86 around 4:1 and owning the fastest-growing segment of the microprocessor market.

Re:Transmeta competed with Intel (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846803)

And is also owned by Intel and produced under the brand name XScale, though rights to the chips have also been sold to other companies.

Re:Transmeta competed with Intel (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25847009)

ARM was never owned by Intel. Intel licensed ARM cores and produced them under the StrongARM brand. They then got some ex-Alpha people to do the XScale design, which ended up being a typical Intel chip of the era - high clock frequency, low instruction-per-clock. They then sold the entire XScale division to Marvell, and now do not make any ARM-compatible chips. Meanwhile, the likes of Samsung and TI are making ARM chips with a performance per watt ratio around an order of magnitude better than anything Intel produces.

Re:Transmeta competed with Intel (2, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 5 years ago | (#25847415)

ARM was never owned by Intel. Intel licensed ARM cores and produced them under the StrongARM brand. They then got some ex-Alpha people to do the XScale design, which ended up being a typical Intel chip of the era - high clock frequency, low instruction-per-clock. They then sold the entire XScale division to Marvell, and now do not make any ARM-compatible chips. Meanwhile, the likes of Samsung and TI are making ARM chips with a performance per watt ratio around an order of magnitude better than anything Intel produces.

Actually, Intel, through the Digital/Compaq lawsuits, acquired a microarchitecture license from ARM (most licensees only get the core license - thus they can take the ARM core as designed by ARM and plunk it onto their chips). WIth this license, Intel could produce ARM compatible chips with any microarchitecture they want. First they inherited the StrongARM architecture from Digital, then created the XScale architecture. TI and Samsung are dependent on ARM to produce faster rated cores...

It should be noted that Intel still owns the license, and thus, it's "Intel XScale". They sold the Communications and Handheld processors to Marvell (PXAxxx), but they kept the I/O and network processors division (IOPxxx).

Re:Transmeta competed with Intel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25847351)

VIA stink in anycase. I'm not sure they almost 'ran them out' of business - I think it's more that Via's products just don't compete.

It's just business... (1)

miya (983552) | more than 5 years ago | (#25845987)

Yet another buyout.... The problem here is that we now are (actually, almost always were) in a duopoly shared by Intel and AMD. Let's see if another processor company emerges in the future... How about that chinese company?

Re:It's just business... (2, Interesting)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25847115)

i'm just curious why VIA hasn't been a major contender in the growing netbook & low power desktop market. haven't low power processors always been their specialty?

i think it'd be hard for any independent manufacturer to compete against AMD & Intel in the high-end market where the duopoly is firmly entrenched. however, many consumers are beginning to realize that they really don't need the latest quad core processor just to check e-mail and surf the web. i expect the trend towards low power desktops & sub-laptops will continue to grow in coming years, especially as power-efficiency and portability start playing a greater role in people's purchasing decisions.

i mean, if AMD and Intel are both focusing all of their R&D resources on pumping out more processing power, then it makes much more sense for an independent manufacturer to focus on minimizing power consumption & heat like VIA is doing. designing purpose-driven PCs is another way of increasing efficiency and lowering cost & power-consumption. for instance, using specialized GPUs to handle things like 2D graphics (sub-pixel antialiasing, Lanczos resampling, bicubic interpolation, Bézier spline manipulation, high quality image blurring, etc.) you can build a relatively low-power system designed specifically for 2D graphic design.

most people usually only use their computers for a narrow range of applications. if i'm a graphic designer, i don't need a system that can play the latest games; and if i'm a musician or audio engineer, then i don't need a general-purpose PC that can do 2D/3D graphics. by focusing on specialized GPUs/sub-processors and purpose-driven designs rather than trying to out-compete AMD and Intel in high-power general-purpose CPUs, i think an independent manufacturer like VIA stands a good chance of grabbing a large slice of the consumer market.

Re:It's just business... (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 5 years ago | (#25849549)

i'm just curious why VIA hasn't been a major contender in the growing netbook & low power desktop market. haven't low power processors always been their specialty?

Linux drivers. Intel provides them, VIA does not, and Vista is not an option. In a panic they've started dumping out public specs and drivers in the last few weeks, now that the Atom is out and they're in danger of being made irrelevant.

Um... (0, Redundant)

sootman (158191) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846007)

Archives go back to December 31, 1997 [slashdot.org] but the site itself goes back to September. [wikipedia.org] So I don't think that was the real 13th story.

Re:Um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846467)

The SID for the article is 99

Re:Um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25846697)

A SID that's not a 6581 or a 8580? Blasphemy!

No Comments (1)

somegeekynick (1011759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846355)

Our earliest discussion of Transmeta was the 13th Slashdot story. And without any comments too! This could my very chance to get in a first post! mwahAHAHAHA!

Catapostrophic (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25846711)

Linus Torvalds formerly owned a company.
Linus Torvalds' former company was acquired.

before this community existed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25847285)

huh?
I remember reading with anticipation as to where he was gonna work when he graduated. At the time rumors abounded... ... you might not have been here but we existed...

albeit back then it was a lot more relevant...

His former EMPLOYER, not "his" company... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#25848095)

Wasn't there enough room to say that in the subject field?

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