Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

DIY 1980s "Non-Von" Supercomputer

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the try-this-at-home dept.

Hardware Hacking 135

Brietech writes "Ever wanted to own your own supercomputer? This guy recreated a 31-processor SIMD supercomputer from the early 1980s called the 'Non-Von 1' in an FPGA. It uses a 'Non-Von Neumann' architecture, and was intended for extremely fast database searches and artificial intelligence applications. Full-scale models were intended to have more than a million processors. It's a cool project for those interested in 'alternative' computer architectures, and yes, full source code (Verilog) is available, along with a python library to program it with." Hope the WIPO patent has expired.

cancel ×

135 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Neat... (2, Insightful)

jetsci (1470207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929549)

So, that's neat and all but did I misunderstand something. His model doesn't seem that powerful unless he was using modern processors?

Re:Neat... (1)

jetsci (1470207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929645)

I can't help but wonder if this couldn't be emulated for a fraction of the price. Are there any virtualization systems out there that could accomplish what this guy did? I imagine something along the lines of GNS3 might work...

Re:Neat... (1)

kirbysuperstar (1198939) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929999)

Wha? Where's the fun in that?

Re:Neat... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930133)

Uhhh... right here [nimp.org] . Now don't say I didn't warn you, but it's pretty relevant.

URL isn't goatse, but it's equally disgusting (1)

RedDirt (3122) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930323)

Like, ew and stuff.

WARNING! (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930599)

The link in the parent comment caused my X session to unexpectedly terminate. No idea how he did it, or if it was intentional, but it happened.

Re:Neat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930703)

interesting how the vagina is blurred out but the perfectly rounded asshole spewing shit is perfectly visible

Re:Neat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26931481)

That can only be one shock site...

Re:Neat... (4, Informative)

topherama (1344245) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931425)

Uhhh... right here [nimp.org] . Now don't say I didn't warn you, but it's pretty relevant.

Link attempts to install a virus; need to kill his comment.

Re:Neat... (4, Interesting)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930233)

Of course a modern computer can simulate a 1980's computer. It would probably take about a day to write a functional simulation in Java.

For that matter, it's not like this computer can do anything that a modern computer can't do in spite of the different architecture. It was designed to do certain things fast, but anything off the shelf today could run circles around these relics regardless of such optimization. (To GP's point -- since the article indicates that he was building to the functional design of the original, it's probably not powerful by today's standards. He may have used faster components than they had back then -- and he obviously used smaller components than they had back then -- but we're not looking at a modern billions-and-billions-of-transistors-on-a-chip optimized-in-ways-you-cannot-comprehend heat-sink-needing CPU.) So once you talk about "what can it do" at a useful level of abstraction, the answer is "nothing all that practical".

But that's not the point, is it? This kind of stuff is a hobby and a fascination to some people. I'm interested enough that I might write a software simulation of the machine, but not interested enough to build one. This guy was interested enough to build one.

It's not like stamp collectors are saving up for a big letter-writing campaign...

Re:Neat... (2, Funny)

jetsci (1470207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930327)

It's not like stamp collectors are saving up for a big letter-writing campaign...

That's what they want us to think....all the while, draining the stamp supply!

But seriously, I understand your point and I can respect that. I just wanted to know if it could actually do anything useful. If not, cool; he's got a pretty neat toy now and that's well worth it.

Re:Neat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930701)

"Of course a modern computer can simulate a 1980's computer. It would probably take about a day to write a functional simulation in Java."

It would then take another 2hrs days to actually run a simple 'hello world' or equivalent test simulation in java.

an FPGA could run it in a few uSec.

Re:Neat... (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931253)

These days Java doesn't run that slow:

http://shootout.alioth.debian.org/debian/benchmark.php?test=all&lang=gcc&lang2=gcj&box=1

C'mon.

Re:Neat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930751)

Stop talking out your ass. This could be useful in todays worlds vs even against the fastest General perpuse CPUs. You would need to add several FPGAs (say about 10) and interlink them but then you could do huge database searches and rewrites much faster then you could on a normal computer. Of course you would need a good reason do this and a limited data set because you would be very limited by the number of FPGAs you had. But I can think of a few places where it could be useful. Also if you made ASICs you could improve the speed and the density. Though in reality this is more of a smart memory then a CPU and needs to be combined with a regular CPU. It might find application in low powered embedded devices. I know that if I get a chance to suggest we use a similar architecture, I will.

Re:Neat... (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931493)

Ok, he was able to put a 32-node system on an FPGA. You interconnect a few, and you'll have a special-purpose procesor for a couple-hundred-record dataset. That won't do "huge database searches", I'm afraid. Ultra-fast processing of a few hundred records is not impressive.

If you're going to tell me I'm talking out my ass, you might want to do the math first.

Re:Neat... (2, Interesting)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931307)

An architecture like this is useful for massively parallel algorithms. It could theoretically outperform modern desktop or server systems within that domain.

In fact, a rebuild of COLOSSUS [wikipedia.org] was estimated to be 240 times slower than a modern desktop at decoding old German cryptographic signals. That might not sound that good, but if you run Moore's Law in reverse over 60 years, you should get a factor a lot higher than 240.

Re:Neat... (2, Insightful)

yttrstein (891553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26933115)

"But that's not the point, is it? This kind of stuff is a hobby and a fascination to some people. I'm interested enough that I might write a software simulation of the machine, but not interested enough to build one."

I'd be very interested to hear your opinions of these monsters after you've actually attempted to convert one into a real hardware emulator.

Something tells me if you're really serious about doing it in Java though, I'll be waiting a bit more than "about a day".

Re:Neat... (5, Informative)

kdawson (3715) (1344097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929667)

Check this out...

Article at /dev/null [dnull.com] .

Everything that you wanted to know and more. An interesting read.

Re:Neat... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26933601)

kdawson you fucking suck, fuck you

Re:Neat... (1)

fpgaprogrammer (1086859) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931157)

A Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is a fundamentally different type of architecture than what you think of as "modern processors." Instead of serial instruction stream execution engines you are provided with an array of programmable logic blocks in a sea of programmable routing. The programming model is akin to programming a spreadsheet in which each cell updates in parallel. Traditionally we think of this as "reconfigurable hardware" since the languages we use for designing physical hardware and FPGA emulations are the same (VHDL/Verilog). For most tasks that exhibit any sort of parallelism, an FPGA can grossly outperform a CPU of similar transistor count and cost both in terms of throughput and power consumption. The major barriers preventing the FPGA architecture from pushing serial instruction stream executers aside is the learning curve of the programming model and the economic barrier-to-entry: FPGAs are historically expensive VHDL/Verilog simulators and good design tools aren't cheap either. FPGA emulations of legacy systems can replace computing components that can no longer be purchased. This is what I do professionally.

And the point is (-1, Flamebait)

amori (1424659) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929577)

"Mine only has 31 nodes, so I could use it as a way to store roughly half of the phonebook in my cell phone." I think I'll pass this one up.

Re:And the point is (-1, Troll)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929751)

What are you doing reading Slashdot? Why don't you go back to re-installing Windows on that nice new Dell you bought?

Re:And the point is (-1, Flamebait)

amori (1424659) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930325)

Normally I wouldn't reply to that but funny you bring it up: My computational cluster runs Linux (personal and at work) and it has a lot of memory, hence my original post. You can't do much with a supercomputer without a decent amount of memory. And Dell ? Who uses Dell.

Re:And the point is (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930453)

My balls. Lick them.

CÃao.
Also, slashdot can suck my slashed dong because it can't even display an acute accent mark i character.

Re:And the point is (0, Offtopic)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 5 years ago | (#26933363)

As the accepted English spelling is "ciao" and not "cíao" that shouldn't be a problem.

Re:And the point is (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930529)

That's fascinating, but has nothing to do with your original point, which questioned why someone would find it fun and a positive learning experience building something that isn't the most powerful computer on Earth.

It's jolly nice to hear that "Linux" is useful to people who have no imagination or desire to better themselves though.

Re:And the point is (0, Flamebait)

amori (1424659) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931199)

What else do you imagine ? I'm guessing you have one heightened sense of imagination, which I would probably associate with a gun totting Republican, who also happens to be a linux fanboy, and wishes to bring Linux into a subject that has nothing to do with it.

Re:And the point is (3, Insightful)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931497)

I'm not imagining anything. I'm KNOWING you're the kind of asshole who posts on every Slashdot article about someone's homebrew project whining that it isn't "useful" in some arbitrary utilitarian sense and therefore is pointless. I'm knowing you do this, because like the others you have no imagination, no desire to learn, and no empathy with those who do.

Oh, and it was you who raised Linux, in what appeared to be some kind of ironic "You're criticizing me, but I run Linux! Linux I tell you! Therefore I am cool!" defense against the suggestion you might actually be a wannabe geek. You do know that Linux wasn't utilitarian once too, right?

No, you're not cool. You're an ass.

Re:And the point is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26932869)

Amen to that!

I completely agree with Squiggles. Some people just lack the hacker spirit and the insatiable hunger for knowledge.

Re:And the point is (1)

Thuktun (221615) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932747)

And Dell ? Who uses Dell.

In the Small and Medium Business (SMB) market, they have a 28% share in the USA and 10% worldwide. There are almost a quarter million SMBs in the USA alone.

http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/corporate/about_dell/FYIR_08_Slide_9.jpg [dell.com]
http://www.census.gov/epcd/www/smallbus.html [census.gov]

Apparently quite a lot of business use Dell.

Re:And the point is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26933473)

For someone who has their own "computational cluster", you don't seem to realise just how many Dells are out there right now running in large clusters. Shows what you know.

Re:And the point is (2, Insightful)

Noodles (39504) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931987)

And I could buy a chair from WalMart, but I get more satisfaction out of building one.

Re:And the point is (2, Insightful)

CompMD (522020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932341)

With that attitude and week-old UID, its no wonder America is suffering in science and engineering.

Obligatory (0, Redundant)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929591)

Does it run Linux?

Re:Obligatory (0, Redundant)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929721)

Maybe if you make a beowulf cluster of them.

Re:Obligatory (1)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930445)

I was just thinking the same thing! Maybe we can use it to display pictures of Natalie Portman, naked and petrified and covered in hot grits. I just bought the goatse.cx domain, we can use it!

Re:Obligatory (1)

wcb4 (75520) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930949)

In Soviet Russia, the gostse.cx domain buys you. But its a lie, you don't own it... all your goatse.cx domains are belong to us.... next.

Re:Obligatory (0, Redundant)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930487)

To he who modded me down:

All your memes are belong to us!!

Web Server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26929671)

Obviously not running on a supercomputer...

If that's what's running his website... (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929683)

Then I'm not impressed.

Call me... (3, Funny)

K8Fan (37875) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929749)

...when he's emulated a Connection Machine [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Call me... (2, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930439)

Who the hell modded the parent insightful? To the parent: call me when you ever do anything except post here.

Re:Call me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930569)

But... how do you emulate das blinkenlights on an FPGA?

Offtopic trip down memory lane (5, Interesting)

clary (141424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931813)

I got a chance to use a Connection Machine (real, not emulated) in the late 1980s, just a couple of years out of college. It was an internal R&D project for a defense contractor, porting a computational fluid dynamics program I didn't understand from Cray vectorized Fortran to the CM's *Lisp. Fun stuff.

I even got a chance to visit Thinking Machines headquarters in Boston, and hear Danny Hillis speak. Here he was speaking to a room full of suits, dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a T-shirt. I remember thinking at the time that being able to do that was quite an indicator of success.

Yeah, yeah, I know...offtopic, overrated, etc. So mod me down if you must. (Or is that just reverse psychology on you moderators? Muhahaha!)

Holy CRAP! (2, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929797)

FTFA:

What if I want to build my own?

Yay open-source! The code isnâ(TM)t exactly polished, but in the interest of promoting weird retro computer architectures, Iâ(TM)ve provided the python library I wrote for it and the verilog code for the Processing Elements. Wire together as many as youâ(TM)d like! Use it to catalog all of your WhiteSnake and Duran Duran tapes!

How the hell did he know about my music collection?

This is pretty cool. 32 core non-von computing architecture on an FPGA. This is more or less the ARM process... license the IP and put it in an ASIC, except this is free. I've often wondered what might be done with the millions of 30xx series FPGAs that are out there in the world. I could lay my hands on probably 40-50 free. If there were some way to do something like this with them, that would be awesome. I like hobby robotics so it's tempting even though they would not be very power efficient. Still, that's a lot of potential processing for free. Now I'm going to have to look for free/open source code for them.

Re:Holy CRAP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930211)

31.

The number of nodes in this architecture will always be expressable as ((2^n)-1), where n is the number of layers.

Re:Holy CRAP! (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930357)

oops, typo... and, if you're interested, check out this [opencores.org]

Re:Holy CRAP! (1)

GuruBuckaroo (833982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931395)

You know, I always wanted to implement a VAX processor on an FPGA. Or better yet (but impossibly expensive), a real, 45nm, full-out printed die.

I used to collect VAXen. They were powerful boxes for their day. And yes, I /did/ have a Beowulf cluster of them - 8 VAXStation 3100s, a VAXStation 4000/60, and a MicroVAX 4000/200. NetBSD ran great on them. But with modern, fast processors with tons of memory... muahahaha.....

But seriously - take all those poor legacy folks out there who still have VAXen in business use (yes, there really are some still in use) and give them a new CPU card to drop into the cage. Would be a thing of beauty. Replace memory cards with banks of DIMMs with appropriate QBUS (or what have you) glue/emulation.

Yes, I know I'm weird. I already told you I collected VAXen.

Re:Holy CRAP! (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932049)

That's awesome. I worked with a company once whose lifeblood was a single redundant PDP-11... yikes.

I've got a hand full of Motorola MVME systems in the garage that I'm either going to eBay or play with... I can't decide what to do with them really. Guess I need to get one up and running. Only have AUI network cards for them, so could be awkward. I've been called a bit weird at times too... sigh

Re:Holy CRAP! (2, Interesting)

fpgaprogrammer (1086859) | more than 5 years ago | (#26933521)

i'm currently wrapping up a PDP-11 emulator on FPGA. I'm writing this post while waiting for the simulator to run test code that was written before I was born.... our contract also has us replacing a fixed-head disk with magneto-RAM.

Re:Holy CRAP! (2, Informative)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932861)

This is more or less the ARM process... license the IP and put it in an ASIC, except this is free.

Yes, ARM ships soft cores, ST Microelectronics uses soft cores (at least internally), Altera, Xilinx, OpenCores. Here's [wikipedia.org] a list so you don't search for "soft core" and find something totally different.

Re:Holy CRAP! (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26933453)

I hope you know that you just gained karma points by passing up the opportunity for a goatse link. I have to say that I've been rather impressed by some of the ARM processors that are out there. Some tweaked for multimedia apps, others for motion control etc. I've not done detailed comparison between the TI Omap and ARM, but I have an ARM-7 proto board I've yet to play with. May hack an older phone for the Omap complete with screen for a small robot. Thanks for the links

binary tree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26929801)

a binary tree in hardware, whats next? implementing google file system in hardware?

Transputer? (4, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929827)

Wasn't the transputer [wikipedia.org] an example of this architecture? I'm old enough to be able to say "Get off my lawn!" and remember when the transputer came out; it caused quite a stir.

pity the programmers weren't up to it (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26929929)

Still not.

 

Transputers were for MIMD systems (4, Informative)

N Monkey (313423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930079)

Wasn't the transputer [wikipedia.org] an example of this architecture? I'm old enough to be able to say "Get off my lawn!" and remember when the transputer came out; it caused quite a stir.

The transputer was a RISC-ish CPU with 4 high speed DMA/serial links allowing it to be easily connected to other Transputers (each with its own local memory) to form a network. As such, it could be used to build a large MIMD system - not a SIMD one.

Transputers (+ the Occam language) supported multi-threaded programming with very fast context switches and, for its time, they also had very good FP performance when compared to the contemporary x86+float coprocessor.

Re:Transputers were for MIMD systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930731)

Occam had a fairly elegant design influenced by CSP [wikipedia.org] and was amenable to transformation, simplifying the use of formal proofs with it.

It was used to derive the transputer FP implementation which became the first correct FP implementation in hardware.

Re:Transputers were for MIMD systems (1)

bitrex (859228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932439)

I think these guys [tilera.com] are trying to bring back the concept, with 64 interconnected processing "tiles" on a chip.

Re:Transputer? (3, Interesting)

AtrN (87501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932069)

The transputer architecture was quite different. It wasn't SIMD but just a processor with communications links, some on-chip RAM and h/w support for CSP - a scheduler for threads (called a process in occam/transputer-land) and comms via synchronous, uni-directional channels. The scheduler and stack machine architecture made context switches very fast and communications easy. The h/w was notable that you just needed some power and a clock to get a transputer machine up and building multi-processor systems wasn't too difficult.

Alternate URL (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26929871)

More at www.NYCResistor.com

WIPO does not grant patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26929873)

WIPO does not grant patents, The document indicates that it entered the national phase in Europe. The publication date was in 1987, so the patent should be long expired by now.

The US patent was filed on June 26, 1989 and granted on june 4, 1991. 20 years from filing is June 26 of this year. 17 years from granting has already passed. However, it is 20 years from the earliest filing date, and that date is the claimed priority date of October 31, 1985. Therefore barring some extension that may have been granted, the US patent ended 17 years after grant, or June 5, 2008.

Have fun!

GOOGLE CACHE LINK (3, Informative)

Brietech (668850) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929897)

WARNING! GOATSE LINK!! DO NOT CLICK (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26929995)

n/t

Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26929935)

Folks just don't understand what FPGA's do.

"So, that's neat and all but did I misunderstand something. His model doesn't seem that powerful unless he was using modern processors?"

It's implemented in HARDWARE. Everything runs in parallel. To do the same on a "modern" processor, would require 300-400Mhz. A FPGA running at a [modest] 25Mhz could get the same or better performance.

"I can't help but wonder if this couldn't be emulated for a fraction of the price. Are there any virtualization systems out there that could accomplish what this guy did? I imagine something along the lines of GNS3 might work..."

FPGA's are cheap. A Spartan-3 board can be had for 100-200, and probably hold 2-3 32 node cpu's.

Programmers just don't understand the difference between say verilog, and C/C++/Java.

verilog is the basic building block of CPU's. Everything is done in PARALLEL by default, while in C++/Java everything is done SERIALLY.

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930241)

Interestingly, though, while FPGAs are cheap, they're still not as cheap as MIPS on a modern, mass-market Intel or AMD chip.

There's a fundamental natural limit -- some kind of physical constant that nobody has named yet -- that governs how much computing work can be done on a given amount of silicon, using a given amount of power. It's far from clear that massive parallelism is the way to get closest to that limit.

The demise of Moore's Law tells us that at least some parallelism will have to be involved, but going all the way to FPGA-level RTL coding is probably not going to be necessary. (I hope.)

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930733)

What the hell does MIPS have to do with an FPGA? MIPS is an ISA, not a large-scale programmable embedded device/chip.

This "fundamental" natural limit... did you learn this at ITT Tech or something? I think and really hope you understand that when a transistor is shrunk in size, its power consumption during switches drops as well?

Do you realize that we still have yet to produce any computer that can surpass the human brain in computing power? You think the brain operates serially?

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931035)

What the hell does MIPS have to do with an FPGA? MIPS is an ISA, not a large-scale programmable embedded device/chip.

It has everything to do with getting computational tasks done.

This "fundamental" natural limit... did you learn this at ITT Tech or something? I think and really hope you understand that when a transistor is shrunk in size, its power consumption during switches drops as well?

Just curious, since you seem rather knowledgeable. Why wasn't your PC made by Thinking Machines?

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (1, Informative)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931169)

What the hell does MIPS have to do with an FPGA? MIPS is an ISA, not a large-scale programmable embedded device/chip.

Sorry, to clarify (with an </i> even!): MIPS is not an "ISA," whatever that is. MIPS is a rather generic term for computational throughput (millions of instructions per second). A million cores running at one instruction per second generates 1 MIPS, so does a single core running at a million instructions per second.

You will use less die real estate and less power with a general-purpose processor designed for the second case than you will with an FPGA that implements the first case... so unless you're lucky enough to be working on one of a few specific parallel problems, you probably do not want to treat FPGAs as the religion you seem to think they are. Most general-purpose computational tasks don't parallelize to the extent that an FPGA is the right way to run them.

If you wanted to perform IDCTs for a video codec all day, a programmable gate array is fine. But if you want to write the rest of a video player, from its file system to its UI, you'd be nuts to do it in an HDL.

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (1)

raistlinwolf (1365893) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932603)

A million cores running at one instruction per second generates 1 MIPS, so does a single core running at a million instructions per second.

You will use less die real estate and less power with a general-purpose processor designed for the second case than you will with an FPGA that implements the first case...

That's why I clicked on this article right there - why not have a 1MHz gigacore cpu?

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931603)

The parent does seem to be speaking about things he knows nothing about but to be entirely fair....

*Its probably the case that anything programmable device you were going to mass produce you could probably do the computation it needs to do more cheaply by using off the self MIPS products then if you used a FPGA in some configuration of your own design.

*He is probably correct that there is a hard limit on the amount of logic operations you can do with a given number of joules of input energy and a given size of silicon surface you have to implement your circuit. Eventually we will get to the point where no matter what novel doping and etching methods we develop we can't make a transistor any smaller, and can't stable output with less input power.

 

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930603)

I know that FPGA's do get better performance than a generalized processor but is it really to the level that you've described?

I may have to screw around with Verilog again.

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26931135)

Yes, it's that low level.

Verilog [or VHDL] is the basic building block of everything digital.

All modern CPU's are designed in verilog [or VHDL].

You essentially construct individual registers and describe the data transfer mechanism between them.

Everything is managed in 'clock cycle', not machine cycles, so there is no real 'abstraction' typically present in programming languages.

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932055)

I was referring more to 25mhz being equivalent to 400mhz.

Re:Virtualization vs Hardware vs Verilog (1)

virtue3 (888450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932599)

Oh, I'm a programmer, and I understand the difference. I'm just terrified of trying to write a massively parallel program :D

It's a cluster (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 5 years ago | (#26929957)

but it ain't a supercomputer (at least not any more, by today's standards.)

Before it was slashdotted... (2, Informative)

enigma32 (128601) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930029)

I managed to catch this one before the site went down.

Cool stuff. The author says that these were originally designed to have each processor operate on a record in a database. All concurrently.

I imagine the speed of such a system would be staggering... though tough to implement for large data sets. Still pretty cool.

The Python library apparently implements machine code functions so he can debug in real time from the command line. Not my cup of tea, but cool for people that like to fiddle with machine code.

Re:Before it was slashdotted... (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930449)

I found this original intent of 1 processor = 1 record interesting as well, but more from a "so that's why this isn't around today" standpoint.

In the day it may have sounded like a promising approach. 1M records may have sounded like a big dataset. But today there are two types of dataset -- those so small that a conventional computer can handle them just fine, and those so big that this architecture cannot scale to them. I work in a data warehouse that loads several million records per day.

To be fair, I respect this approach as possibly contributing to the massively-parallel database architecture in Teradata. It, too, works on the premise that a large number of processing elements (it calls them AMPs) each independently handle some of the data -- and in early implementations each AMP was a piece of hardware, kind of like this system. It scales better because each AMP handles an arbitrary subset of the data, not just one record. Each AMP has its own disks, not merely a bit of RAM and a few registers.

Coral CDN Link (w pics) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930081)

http://chrisfenton.com.nyud.net/non-von-1/

Best article of month. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930197)

Seriously, nice post, nice work by the engineer. Inspiring, and learned something new. FPGA... who wouldn't want to try one himself or herself?

jealousy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930249)

I used to have free time too. That looks like a lot of fun.

Expired (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930303)

IANAL, but it appears 20 years has elapsed internationally, and that US patents 5,021,945 and 4,847,755 are beyond their 17 year life. This is assuming these are the only live applications or continuations.

Which Might Explain Why: +1, Informative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930331)

D. E. Shaw always has job vacancies:

http://chronicle.com/cgi2-bin/texis/jobs/search

        * Quantitative Analyst
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Generalist Associate (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/10/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Executive Technical Support Specialist (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Ideal Day Job
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Tired of Consulting?
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Special Technology Coordinator (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Tired of Academia?
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Government Adviser Associate (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/10/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Senior Database Administrator (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Investor Relations Associate (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Rotational Associates Program (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * For-Profit Roles for Nonprofit People
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Strategic IT Security Adviser (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Investor Relations RFP Writer (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Quantitative Developer
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Software Developer
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Receptionist/Administrative Assistant
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * IT Security Specialist (New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Strategic Growth Associate, Computational Biochemistry Research Group
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

        * Systems Administrator (Full-time and Summer Intern--New York)
            D. E. Shaw Group (New York) 2/20/2009
            Profile Learn more in our Employer Profiles

WIPO PATENT EXPIRED?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930381)

The author is a goober. Anyone who works with tech these days should know patent basics. And that includes the knowledge that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A WIPO PATENT.

With WIPO, you file a PCT application. It gets examined, and they issue a Written Opinion. And THEN you can take your application into different countries that you designate, and try to get patents in those countries.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_Cooperation_Treaty

DSP? (1)

Consul (119169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930477)

I wonder if something like this would be good for DSP (not necessarily real-time) work. There is a DSP method called "lumped modeling" which uses binary trees to attach together small algorithms derived from bilinear transforms of electronic components (resistors, inductors, capacitors). The networks go together in a way that look almost just like electronic circuits.

Re:DSP? (1)

acohen1 (1454445) | more than 5 years ago | (#26933121)

Many DSPs for limited units are actually done on FPGAs. What you are describing works great on FPGA.

I have one of these already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930633)

A 31 node SIMD? It's called GEE PEE YEW.

Re:I have one of these already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930973)

But yours isn't from the '80s!

This Account Has Exceeded Its CPU Quota (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930797)

This Account Has Exceeded Its CPU Quota

slashdotted

MasPar (4, Interesting)

mdegerne (1482827) | more than 5 years ago | (#26930801)

For several years I worked on a SIMD system called MasPar. The system had 8192 processors. It was installed in 1991 and it was not until about 1998 that conventional computers running Oracle could even come close to the performance for data warehouse applications. Sure, it's slow by today's standards, but I bet a modern version custom built would be an awesome code breaking and data analysis system.
BTW: the system was used to help with the human genome project and to search Medical Services Plan data by the Province of BC. It finally decommissioned in 2000 (or early 2001).

Re:MasPar (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26930965)

I helped install the MasPar at our Uni (as a student employee in computer services) and helped with its upgrade to 8k processors. It got used for a few simulations and some password cracking :)

It was too bad that it never got more use for any of the tasks it'd have been really good at. Eventually the vendor failed, the software stopped being updated, and the MasPar was recycled... almost.

At that time the U sold older computers in a biannual surplus auction, so students could get a 386 or whatever for their dorm or home. I went to get some hardware or whatever caught my eye, at the time I was living on one floor of a house off campus.

The maspar compute unit was being sold for $10, without the workstation front end (a DecStation). The cable to connect it was missing. But, I was more interested in workstations than in PCs, and I spied the front end along with our original DEC Alpha near the front of the sale on a pallet of to-be-recycled items. I bought the compute unit, then talked the sale admins into selling me the pallet for $100, most of which I made back immediately selling a couple Macs off the top.

I then took the maspar home, almost dying getting it up the stairs (verrrry heavy) and setting it up in my living room. I pulled the internal cable out of the compute unit and extended it far enough out to reach the front end, then started it up. I had to break the root password, but I got it all working.

Unfortunately I didn't have the system CD nor the license Paks, and I didn't have any maspar software. I did download a few things and played, but I couldn't do anything interesting with the system without more development tools. Plus running the thing heated the living room on its own.

Eventually I moved out and sold the decstation front end on ebay, along with the alpha, and junked the data array. It actually fell down my front steps and tumbled over... heck of an end for a half million dollar piece of hardware.

Erik

many 1980s boutique supercomputers (2, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931709)

One of my classmates was a Masspar founder. In the 1980s it readily doable for a 2 to 5 person team to design a custom CPU with the new Mead-Conway type circuit compilers and Silicon-fab factories out there. Lots of clever ideas too. Plus UNIX (before Linux) was a low cost way of porting an operating system that customer scientists were familar with. They all claimed C-compilers that made porting code easy. NOT! I put energy industry code on a half-dozen of them.

The problems was the second generation machine. The prototypes got out the door, but only found a handful of customers - usually bold geeks. The second generation CMs, MassPars, Convexes, etc. then took 3-5 years. In the meantime that was about 3 to 5 Intel commodity chip generations which caught up in the meantime.

The 1990s were expandable commodity clusters. Several of my friends started software services companies in their garages with a few dozen nodes, then expanded as business grew. Several cashed out very well. The 1990s approach made economic sense, but the 1980s were more intellectually interesting.

Re:MasPar (1)

heironymous (197988) | more than 5 years ago | (#26931797)

Such a beautiful machine! I loved working on the MasPar back in the 90's. I remember the eureka moment when my brain clicked, and I stopped thinking Von Neumannly. To this day, those experiences shape how I approach Clojure and Scala.

Re:MasPar (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26933083)

It was slow for 1 process. But when you started to use all the processors that thing sped up. If well designed code you can drop it by 1 Big O segment O(n) can be done in O(1), O(n^n) can be done in O(n)

Photo (with my cell phone) of an original NonVon1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26931705)

Photo (with my cell phone) of an original NonVon1 PE Chip
see:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/35583156@N03/3295655132/

If there is interest, I'll take a photo with a proper camera when I get home.

Re:Photo (with my cell phone) of an original NonVo (1)

32771 (906153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932401)

Very nice! Did you work on it? What happened to the project?

Actually I just found a paper about it: http://dli.iiit.ac.in/ijcai/IJCAI-81-VOL-2/PDF/072.pdf [iiit.ac.in]

The author of said paper might know Chris Fenton in some way, since the verilog code mentions a company named

// Company: D.E. Shaw Research
// Engineer: Christopher Fenton
//
// Create Date: 19:54:35 01/29/2008

Actually, I found a book at google

"Strategic Computing, By Alex Roland, Philip Shiman" that mentions DADO and NonVon being canceled because they didn't offer anything fundamentally new. Compared to the CM they had little staying power.

Non-Van (1)

marol (734015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932529)

It had been a wonderful evening and what I needed now, to give it the perfect ending, was a little of the Non-Van.

non executable data space (1)

xeniast (575383) | more than 5 years ago | (#26932841)

IBM re-introduced non-executable data spaces in the late 80s Prior to that all IBM machines since the 40s had been Von Neumann

Don't worry (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#26933027)

Hope the WIPO patent has expired.

Don't worry, it's probably public domain by now.

Unless someone put it to music, that is. [royaltyfreemusic.com]

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>