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AMD's New SledgeHammer: 64 bit chip

Hemos posted about 15 years ago | from the wham-bam-thank-yee dept.

AMD 211

ChickenBomb wrote to us with word that perennial battle between Intel and AMD is continuing with AMD unveiling plans for their new 64-bit microprocessor, code-named SledgeHammer. Heck of a lot better name then Itanium, IMHO.

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Oh Swell... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637780)

I'm so sick of all you AMD backers out there. Intel is a multimillion dollar company, with one thing in mind...profits. AMD is another multimillion dollar company...with one thing in mind...profits.

It's all well and good to have in a company that competes with Microsoft with a different OS, but I'm so sick of people treating AMD like it's there sweet uncle, working out of his garage, scrapping by with "Open Source" help.


Now AMD is going out and building a 64bit processors that is NOT compatible with Merced? That's just what the industry needs.

Slashdot has really dropped into become a completely Pro-AMD...Anti-Intel website, and I for one am sick of it.

Go buy your Sledgehammers people...but give Intel SOME credit. They did make the computer industry what it is today, they ARE one of the greatest American success stories (one of the few successful American companies in the chip market), and the still make a great CPU (the Celeron).

A new architecture for a crowded market (?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637781)

With MIPS, Alpha, Sparc, HP, IBM and others all gunning for the 64bit market, this is a profoundly silly move for AMD. This is why investors punish this stock again and again.

MS Abandon-64 (R) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637782)

I am sure I heard somthing about MS abandoning all current efforts to make a Win64. Mmm...perhaps it was just a wonderful dream.

Re:Back In The Good Old Days . . . (1)

Kingpin (40003) | about 15 years ago | (#1637795)

I believe they stopped using x86 because Intel were forbidden to patent 586 (as it is a number). I guess patenting became an issue because of the upstart AMD and Cyrix chip corps.

I would have guessed Hexium and Heptium etc. back then, but nope. Anyway - Itanium sucks, so does Sledgehammer. I'd prefer 'Brute' or something else I can relate better to ;)

"You rarely reach the target first by walking in another mans path"

Will AMD go the way of ZiLOG? (3)

Shirotae (44882) | about 15 years ago | (#1637796)

This reminds me of the time when Intel introduced the 8086. Back then, ZiLOG with the Z80 was a real force in the market competing with Intel's 8080, Motorola's 6800 and Rockwell's 6502.

Then came the 16 bit revolution (when we really needed more - the 16-bit minicomputers running out of space should have been the clue.)

The competitors were:
Intel with the 8086
ZiLOG with the Z8000
Motorola with the 68000
National Semiconductor with the 16032 (later called 32016)

In technical terms, the order of merit was 16032, 68000, Z8000, 8086. In marketing the 8086 was way ahead, but I think the 68000 was next.

Only two of these gained any substantial market share, and the 68000 had the advantage of being really a 32 bit processor. The 16032 was a better 32 bit processor, but it was just too late arriving.

If AMD have some technical feature of the scale of 32 vs 16 bits back then, and they are also far enough along with the development that they can ship at most a few months behind Intel, they have a chance of competing in this space. The more likely outcome of developing an incompatible processor is that we will see them reinvent themselves in some niche market in a few years time as ZiLOG have now done.

The Open Source community may well be able to use SledgeHammer when it arrives, but the software shipped as binary will ship for itanium first (or only), and that will be what counts.

some context .... (2)

taniwha (70410) | about 15 years ago | (#1637797)

People should realise that this is the CPU industry's season to sell vapor - you'll see a whole host of announcements of future chips, previews of new silicon etc etc 'Microprocessor Forum' is the conference where this sort of stuff happens .. and it starts today.

This isn't so much a bad thing Merced was announced in a similar manner MANY years ago - people should take anything you heer this week about the distant future (ie 2+ years) with a grain of salt - chips take a long time to bring to market and always change a lot during the process - remember they are announcing their goal - not new silicon that's sampling to customers - these are VERY different things.

AMD alliances : Alpha ? Transmeta ? (1)

Atreide (16473) | about 15 years ago | (#1637798)

did not compaq stop the future of the Alpha Chip ?

AMD might buy some 64b technology from Compaq ?

Or maybe Transmeta really did some highly performant x86 emulator than AMD will use ?

Re:no specs... (1)

paitre (32242) | about 15 years ago | (#1637799)

Keep in mind that AMD hasn't even made their presentation at the MPF, yet. This article is most likely based on what little AMD has said/allowed to be said about the chip prior to their presentation. Hell, most of the information could very well come from whatever they have in the MPF press guide. AFTR, I've not seen the press guide or whatever literature is handed out at the Microprocesor Forum, I'm just making some (somewhat) educated guesses as to why detail is so abhorrently missing in this article (ooh, don't forget NDAs, as well :)

Re:Interesting info/analysis at The Register (1)

quadong (52475) | about 15 years ago | (#1637800)

Yes, please tell us the details. (You'd think this would go without saying...)

Re:SledgeHammer - Good idea? Bad idea? (1)

garcia (6573) | about 15 years ago | (#1637801)

Will everyone jump on the Merced bandwagon and abandon the new AMD chip?

well, I think yes. The only reason that people buy AMD is so that they can get relatively the same speed chip for a much lower price. They run the *same* programs, not *different* ones that their new 64bit will run. I really can't see developers *or* users wanting to buy a chip like this. The Macintosh may have been a better design, but who supported it, and where are they now?

640k (1)

delmoi (26744) | about 15 years ago | (#1637802)

Intel chips have no problems with more then 640k of ram. it was a design flaw in microsofts OS.

the 68k is another type of CPU the 'k' is sort for 000, ie 68000 68001, ect
"Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

Now To Create ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637803)

A beowulf cluster of these to get my rc5 keyrate up ... or maybe 1000+ fps. (compulsory comment - surprised i didn't see this mentioned yet)

Re:I must agree with Hemos (1)

revnight (8980) | about 15 years ago | (#1637804)

perhaps they could even get Lemmy to be their spokesman.

a little bit of 'Speedfreak,' and you could bet your sweet biffy i'd con my wife into letting buy one. :)

Concentrate on the Athlon first? (1)

iXus (21877) | about 15 years ago | (#1637807)

I think AMD really is too soon with this. Shouldn't they concentrate on delivering enough Athlons first?

I hope (1)

DanJose52 (55815) | about 15 years ago | (#1637809)

...that they get enough money from Athlon sales to go ahead and smash Itanium with their Sledgehammer(wow! I sound like a marketing type).

If they do make it to production, I know the Sledgehammer will be a superior chip, AMD has proven themselves many times in the past and won't let us down.


I must agree with Hemos (1)

Ken Broadfoot (3675) | about 15 years ago | (#1637811)

Itanium really is a stupid name for a chip. I think Merced was fine.

Now Sledgehammer is a great name. And instead of "Start me Up" by the Stones they could advertise with something by Motorhead! *wink*

Linux support (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637813)

AMD needs to make a backend for GCC for their SledgeHammer so that they get all Linux nerds backing them. This plus a (hopefully) better chip than itanium would let them push forward into server space. Low cost hardware + Free software would really rock.

I find it a bit disappointing actually (2)

GrenDel Fuego (2558) | about 15 years ago | (#1637815)

I for one love AMD processors. I'm running a K6-2 450 in my machine at home right now. And I'd LOVE to get my hands on the chip formely known as K7. But I just have a problem with one key aspect of this processor.

Backwards compatability. From what I've been reading in the past about processors, this is the key "feature" that keeps system speeds down. It's one of the reason RISC processors are faster than their x86 counterparts.

Intel finally has the right idea by moving to a completely new 64 bit platform instead of just adding to the x86 chips. And now AMD is going to take a step backwards.

Ahh.. screw em both. I'm going to save up for an Alpha, or a G4 to run Linux on.

Re:Concentrate on the Athlon first? (1)

Hasdi Hashim (17383) | about 15 years ago | (#1637817)

I believe that the design team and the fab/manufacturing team are separate. Now that Athlon out of the design cycle, AMD can afford to make the design team work a new chip. Unless you want them to fire the design team and allocate more money on the fab/manu/sales of Athlon?


Possibly a bit stupid (1)

mischief (6270) | about 15 years ago | (#1637819)

I think that it'll be a bit hard for AMD to persuade developers to write code that'll run on their platform rather than an Intel's - isn't this a bit premature? With the two key people having resigned, and market share lost through Intel's price drops, they're relying too much on the success of the Athlon to give them enough pull. At least, that's how I see it...


AMD (0)

PimpSmurf (20322) | about 15 years ago | (#1637820)

AMD is the best chip on the market. period. They are fighting a war with Intel, one they may loose. I support them all he way. k7 chips are faster than any Intel chip made. period. (Whats this??? 700mhz???) I truly hope they succeed. PimpSmurf

And Microsoft lags behind... (2)

Enoch Root (57473) | about 15 years ago | (#1637822)

From the article:

Krelle said AMD's SledgeHammer chip will be designed to run the older 32-bit software at high speeds, in contrast to the relatively slow performance that is expected for the 32-bit software on the Merced chip. And since AMD's new "x86 64" architecture will offer a less radical style of computing than Merced, Krelle said, it will be far easier for programmers to write 64-bit versions of the software.

This seems somewhat surprising, as I would expect Intel to pay close attention to the needs of their good pal, Microsoft. So now you'll need the competition's chip to run 32-bit apps more efficiently... If what AMD claims is to be believed.

And Microsoft is still years away from having a decent 64-bit OS.

With the competition following on Intel's heels, will Intel be forced to whip their 64-bit chips into gear? If so, will they be forced to toss their alliance with Microsoft to the pigs, and move on into the realm of alternate 64-bit OS?

If so, they'll get a lukewarm welcome, I'm sure. They're not nicknamed Wintel for nothing. I think as the possibility of 64-bit platforms becomes more and more a reality, the relationship between Intel and Microsoft is being detrimental to Intel. And they're both likely to lose ground.

I dunno; maybe I'm reading too much into it. Maybe Microsoft will come up with their Win64 platform, and people will consider crappy performance to be the norm, and nothing will change. That certainly wouldn't be anything new.

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

And it's a PROVEN strategy (3)

Sloppy (14984) | about 15 years ago | (#1637824)

This is definitely a compromise solution, but it could work well for AMD.

It will work well for AMD because it is a compromise solution. The PC industry is completely built on compromises because the masses like to take small incremental steps. That's just how evolution works; large mutations are risky, and escaping a local optimum is expensive. It looks like Intel tried to introduce real technological progress, and now they're going to face a threat from someone who is going to use their very own stepwise refinement doctrine.

I don't know whether to be happy or sad about this. I hate seeing low tech win again, but there's such satisfying justice in seeing Intel stabbed with their own weapon, wielded by someone who uses their old(?) philosophy. Yes, I hope AMD goes ahead with this, and makes a mockery of the PC industry for another 20 years. Maybe that's my hatred talking, but I just can't help it. Even if the new boss is the same as the old boss, it's going to feel soooo good to see the old boss suffer.


All Well and Good but... (3)

bubbalou (98776) | about 15 years ago | (#1637825)

Do we really need another 64-bit CPU when there is already a really great one languishing on the sidelines? Alpha AXP runs Linux extremely well and is the fastest microproceesor out there. Don't get me wrong... I love AMD's offerings--I've got Linux boxen running on their 5x86, their K6 II and K6 III lines, and I'm hankering for an Athlon, but Alphas are a sweet machine, and you can get 'em now. I guess I'd have a more welcoming attitude if I thought it would help drive down entry-level price points for the other offering like Itaniums and Alphas.

Re:I must agree with Hemos (1)

revnight (8980) | about 15 years ago | (#1637826)

oops, better make that bippy.

Splitting the Wintel camp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637827)

So the platform with the most software problems due to incompatible hardware will get divided once again. Who wants to support old 32 bit apps with incompatible multimedia extensions as well as new 64 bit apps for different instruction sets? It will be a nightmare.

The only good thing about Wintel was marketshare, being a standard in the industry. This is our chance to overthrow the Wintel hegemony.

Re:And Microsoft lags behind... (4)

bhurt (1081) | about 15 years ago | (#1637828)

Intel realizes this, I think. But on the other hand, the clock is ticking on the life expectancy of _every_ 32-bit chip. If you average desktop system being sold today has 128M of memory today, and that number is doubling every 18 months, then in 4 more doubling, or 6 years, the average desktop system will have 2 gig of ram. Already it's not unusual to see large servers with 10's of gig of ram, and high-end workstations with multiple gigs of ram. Intel is the _only_ desktop & server chip manufacturer still selling only 32-bit chips.

The 386 was released in 1986 IIRC. It wasn't until 1995 that Microsoft managed to release a broadly-accepted 32-bit OS. And the situation doesn't look any better today. But Intel can't wait ten years for Microsoft to get it's act together. This explains Intel's sudden support for Linux- it's one operating system that Intel can assure itself will be running on Merced (if you want something done right...). Intel already has had experience with the GCC compiler (remember pgcc), and once GCC is ported, even Linus agrees that porting Linux is easy.

Which processor to use. (2)

gpoul (52544) | about 15 years ago | (#1637829)

As I have seen till now, the processor industry seems to change because Linux (and other free Operating Systems) make it possible for customers to use other microprocessors.

But which one should someone use? I, for example, really hate using these Intel or AMD chips at the moment because they are x86 compatible (the problems with x86 have been discussed often enough yet).

Yes, you're right. Alpha Microprocessors are a high-performance way to go, but they are really expensive.

The only things which are _really_ interesting are the StrongARM (from intel/digital) and the PowerPC Open Platform developed by IBM.

StrongARM seems to be dropped by Intel because you don't hear anything at the moment. On the other side, Netwinder's seem to sell well. I don't know what to think about that.

IBM's PowerPC Open Platform hasn't launched yet and the website is rather small at the moment, but it looks interesting. Is it possible to escape from these old x86 times?

If I would have to decide which platform to buy at the moment, I wouldn't be able to buy anything, because I simply don't know. All these interesting and good platforms seem to die in the future if there is not enough support by the customers. - Most user I know buy x86 chips because they simply "work". (They buy AMD if they don't like intel; It's a step in the wrong direction, I think. The decision is not AMD or intel; the decision is x86-arm-powerpc-alpha-sparc.)

Maybe someone is interested in discussing that.

Re:Will AMD go the way of ZiLOG? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637830)

In technical terms, the order of merit was 16032, 68000, Z8000, 8086. In marketing the 8086 was way ahead, but I think the 68000 was next.

Maybe but was the 68000 immediatly available when the 8086 was out ? IIRC the 68000 required more gates (transistors) than the 8086, which meant that it was technologically possible first, and then cheaper, to product 8086s.

The Open Source community may well be able to use SledgeHammer when it arrives, but the software shipped as binary will ship for itanium first (or only), and that will be what counts.

The Itanium need to be mainstream first. Otherwise, it would stay a port among others in the Linux distributions along with the Alpha for instance. The real question is: which of the SledgeHammer and Itanium will first reach mainstream market ? Also note that SledgeHammer might be able to run Win95/Win98/WNT4/Win2000 out of the box.

256-bit chip on the horizon? (2)

alumshubby (5517) | about 15 years ago | (#1637831)

Ha, made you look. ;) Seriously, since 64bitishness is mostly vapor anyway, I've been daydreaming for years now about what a 256-bitter would be capable of. That would be some serious throughput!

Re:Oh Swell... (1)

pnkfelix (14173) | about 15 years ago | (#1637832)

There are reasons to prefer one company over another that aren't based just on their products. There are also moral issues here.

Check out
to read about how badly Intel treats its employees and you'll see some of the moral issues I'm talking about. After I read this, I decided that not one more cent of my money was going to be put toward buying a processor made by Intel

64bit vs. 32bit to end-users (1)

andri (23774) | about 15 years ago | (#1637833)

I happened to hear a conversation where a IT specialist tried to explain 64bit sofware to a newbie.

The joke is that the newbie said: "Processors available today are 32bit, right? And next CPUs will be 64bit? But that means two times larger software!!!"


No no no no no. (1)

WasterDave (20047) | about 15 years ago | (#1637844)

So, why exactly would I want to code for one of these instead of:

Alpha on Linux/FreeBSD/Tru64.
Merced on Linux/Win64.
Sparc3, just because a list is too short with two.

Dunno. Especially when you consider the Alpha and Athlon are in a kinda symbiotic relationship wrt sharing EV6.

Anyway, all this next generation stuff is a bit up in the air. Just use the T-word.

Dave :)

I find it brilliant. (2)

penguinicide (73759) | about 15 years ago | (#1637845)

The K7 is a risc chip with a predecoder unit to break apart the intel instruction set, they are already faking it, what's so bad about faking it with a bigger hammer?
All you need to do is keep the existing predecoder instructions add the ones for 64 bit and increase the pipelines and viola! You have a 64 bit chip based on a proven (or soon to be) design. They will probably add a unit in/near the predecoder to combine 32 bit segments for the 64 bit core.

Beyond that, its a great idea anyway. If done right, they will have a single chip that will compete with both intel's 64 bit and 32 bit (you don't think they are going to abandon destop users do you ?) offerings for many years to come. While intel works on two fronts AMD can focus on one. You didn't think they built the K7 architecture to only last for the next 1-2 years. Much of it will be around probably 4-5 years from now.

(BTW. I have seen no proof that the G4 is faster than the K7. They claim that it is ~3 times faster that the PIII in 7 of intels own tests. Look at the tests. They seem to be testing very specific aspects of the chips functionality. Wait for the real benchmarks to come out.)

Re:Back In The Good Old Days . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637846)

I miss the days when a 286 was a 286 and a 486 was a 486. Sure, you had different brands of 286's and 486's but they didn't clutter the scene with these stupid names.

I agree, it was easier to note the difference between chips back then...

...Yet, you didn't mention the 486sx, 486dx, 486dx2...let alone the odd 286/386 beast named "386sx". AMD 386/486 vs. Intel? Ever use a 186? Know the difference between the 8088, 8086, and a V20?

No matter what they're named, I doubt you were taken in back then and aren't today. I'm giddy that I can build an SMP machine for about $1,000 that can stomp on anything from the old days.

Re:I find it a bit disappointing actually (1)

Shadow99_1 (86250) | about 15 years ago | (#1637847)

From what I've read the k8 (sledgehammer) chip will be a dual 32 bit chip, which allows twice as many 32 bit operations or the normal number of 64 bit instructions, but is otherwise basically like a athlon for most things.

I actually like that idea, but then again I don't run a high end server. So double the number of 32 bit instructions sounds really nice for me.

Re:Concentrate on the Athlon first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637848)

The Slot-A motherboards may not even last for very long. AMD has stated that they would switch back to using a PGA style package instead SECC when they were able to produce 0.18 micron fabs using Motorola's (IBM?) copper trace technology.

Sledgehammer is just the code name (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 15 years ago | (#1637849)

So they'll probably make its real name something stupid like Athlon or Wombatium or something. Slashdotium anyone?

Re:I find it a bit disappointing actually (1)

Cacophony (16125) | about 15 years ago | (#1637850)

I think that this is a good move for AMD. There arch rival will be moving to an architecture that will need entirely new software to operate. Customers do not want that. Do you know how many places would still be using 486's today if the current architecture wasn't backwards compatable?

When the Icrapium comes out it will be bit before software is available for all the customers needs. When the SledgeHammer comes out it will be ready to work. No waiting for your favorite software to be ported over to the new architecture, you just go. Huge bonus!

When the Icrapiums come out alot of would be upgraders are going to stick to there pentiums. Who wants a great machine that you can't do the shit you need to do on it?

AMD biggest problem right now is to get the chip released much closer to Intel's release. Or else by that time all the needed software may be available for the Icrapium.


Re:Possibly a bit stupid (1)

penguinicide (73759) | about 15 years ago | (#1637851)

Um, the Athlon isn't a success yet.

The way the chip is set up, you will be able to write current 32 bit code to work on it. You will pull a lot of developers in on that. Plus you have the great aspect of a slow migration path. Buy the 64 bit AMD chip keep your existing code. Use the 64 bit code as it becomes available. You don't have to start from scratch.

Re:All Well and Good but... (1)

Betcour (50623) | about 15 years ago | (#1637852)

Alpha is great, but nobody at Digital or Compaq has ever understood that it is not enough to get cheap cpu, we need cheap motherboards too ! When Asus or Abit comes up with an Alpha motherboard, every Linux user will go Alpha. We have yet to see this happen...

Re:I find it a bit disappointing actually (1)

David Greene (463) | about 15 years ago | (#1637853)

I'm a bit confused. Twice the number of instructions (or the same number of 64-bit adds) doesn't matter if I'm still constrained by 32-bit addressing. New addressing modes => new instructions. It's the choice and coding of these instructions that I'm interested in.

AMD should be able to get away with only adding 64-bit instructions for the common x86 operations. There's something like 15,000 different x86 instructions, of which maybe a couple hundred are used extensively (if that). Take this subset, make it orthogonal (and do the same for the 32-bit versions), and you'd be getting a decent chip. Do the rest in software.


Re:Concentrate on the Athlon first? (4)

hazydave (96747) | about 15 years ago | (#1637864)

Folks seem to have the idea that companies, chip or otherwise, are somehow single-tasking entities. This couldn't be further from the truth. Most chip companies work on several projects in parallel, and if it's a competitive line such as CPUs or 3D graphics chips, these projects overlap (this has been SOP at Intel & Motorola, for example, since the 80s). AMD previously mentioned that the design team derived from the NexGen team, the folks who did the K6, are not the people behind the K7. So, presumably, they aren't sitting around playing Quake III, they're working on something new. More than likely, it's a CPU, and since these folks have proven pretty hot on architecture in the past, doing so in the present wouldn't be a surprise. As for Athlon, it's in production. Unless they do any more true versions of the chip (eg, K7-2, etc) or have major production problems, there is no chip designer work left on the Athlon project anyway. Whatever they're doing now is more than likely process tweaks, die shrinks, etc. That's different people, unless there's some redesign necessary along with a shrink -- anyway, not enough work to occupy a whole uP design team. So these guys are likely on to bigger and better things now, too.

They're gonna need -something- to replace Alpha... (1)

SoupIsGood Food (1179) | about 15 years ago | (#1637865)

Heh...they're gonna need -something- to replace Alpha. The way things have been going, I'd expect to see Sledgehammer hit before Itanium(snicker) or Itanium Pro or Itanium II or Itanium: The Revenge (whatever they're gonna rename McKinley, widely acknowledged as being the first -useable- generation of IA-64. It's also still up in the air whether it will have x86 compatibility in addition to PA-RISC compatibility. HP ain't interested in pushing low-ball boxes to legacy windows drones.)

SoupIsGood Food

VM's and new CPU architectures (3)

speek (53416) | about 15 years ago | (#1637866)

A lot of people complain about Java because it's Run Everywhere theory isn't overly useful to them. They get pretty good portability from C, and why would they want to give up the processing speed for a questionable advantage?

But I see a lot of people here saying that AMD's "compromise" will succeed cause it won't force developers to port everything all at once. It'll save a lot of work, so it'll succeed over Merced. Some also bemoan that this means a lesser quality chip will win. A drastic change in architecture is too risky, they say.

But, Java is also portable to anything new that comes along, so an advantage of the VM architecture is there isn't as much reason to fear drastic innovation in the underlying hardware. This is major, IMO. My code will work anywhere, once someone ports the VM to it. A single port, and everyone's code is brought to the new hardware. This is why many people argue that the greater flexibility of the VM architecture is worth the relatively minor performance hit and even the larger memory hit.

Re:Back In The Good Old Days . . . (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 15 years ago | (#1637867)

But at least you could tell the difference (math-co-processor / no co-processor). Without reading all the specs and white-sheets, how do you instinctlively know the difference between a PII and a K62?

To me, it's a bit like having to handle the metric system and the American system of measurement. It's useless and only clutters everything up.

Look at Apple... (1)

binarybits (11068) | about 15 years ago | (#1637868)

The iMac had no floppy, no serial, no ADB, no SCSI, and no ROM. People complained about that, but lately I haven't heard anyone who bought one complaining. Apple's been pretty agressive about ditching archaic technologies of late, and for a while they caught a lot of flak for it. But if backwards-compatibility is holding computer back, we'll start reaping the benefits when all Macs are running a fully native OS X on multiple-processor G5's, with USB, firewire, and 100-BT ethernet as peripheral technologies.

Whatever the merits of closed versus open systems, a closed system like the Mac does allow Apple to push new technologies more aggressively.

Re:Winners in War (complete cliche) (1)

hazydave (96747) | about 15 years ago | (#1637869)

Not necessarily. PowerPC is very nice these days, with AltiVec and all. But it's still fundamentally a 32-bit processor. If 64-bit matters, IBM and Mot are going to have to take the 64-bit architecture of the Power3 down to the PowerPC level. And stop battling amongst themselves on who is and isn't going to support what feature. And get some real momentum behind an Open PPC platform with some real OS choices (the hell with Apple), maybe produce a G4 processor on the EV6 bus, to let it drop in to existing (or soon to exist) commodity motherboards. And so on...

Alpha is alive and well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637870)

Stop spreading FUD.

Compaq are betting the high-end farm on Tru64/Alpha.

And even if Compaq went bust, Samsung have both design and fab rights.

Re:And it's a PROVEN strategy (1)

Lonesmurf (88531) | about 15 years ago | (#1637871)

"That's just how evolution works; large mutations are risky [clip!]"

The iMac was a big risk, which just happened to be a real money-maker. The question is whether you could classify it as a big mutation since apple has been making all-in-one PC's since the beginning of time (ok, maybe the SECOND day..hehe).


Re:Possibly a bit stupid (1)

mischief (6270) | about 15 years ago | (#1637873)

Um, the Athlon isn't a success yet.

Exactly - that's what I said "a bit premature".

Granted, they have the slow migration path, but Intel is going to be in direct competition with them, which means that it'll be hard for them to convince developers to use their platform.

Personally, I hope they do well; it's about time Intel [] had some serious competition.


Re:But what else can they do? (1)

hazydave (96747) | about 15 years ago | (#1637875)

No one has to license an instruction set, there's never been any special protection for this. Of course, Intel may have specific protection, in the form of patents, which would prevent anyone from cloning an IA-64 machine, or make it difficult. I would expect that AMD studied the IA-64 architecture, legally and technically, before making the rather bold decision to strike out on their own. At least that keeps things interesting. I suspect the rationale will fall out eventually. Could be they think the world will be slow to move to IA-64, that they'll be able to release faster chips before Intel does, or that there are just too many technical and legal stumbling blocks in the way of IA-64 clones.

Re:Which processor to use. (1)

heh2k (84254) | about 15 years ago | (#1637876)

Yes, you're right. Alpha Microprocessors are a high-performance way to go, but they are really expensive

no, they're not

IBM's PowerPC Open Platform hasn't launched yet and the website is rather small at the moment, but it looks interesting. Is it possible to escape from these old x86 times?

yes, buy an alpha or a mac. the sawtooth mobo's are much better, anyway, and they'll be shipping very soon (much sooner than anyone will have an open PPC board shipping or even in production).

Apple did this successfully... (2)

binarybits (11068) | about 15 years ago | (#1637894)

I seem to be on a shameless Apple-shilling streak here, but this is precisely what Apple did when it moved to the PowerPC. The first PPC Macs ran all of the 68k instruction set is software, and managed to do it so seamlessly that most users didn't even notice. This made the OS slower than it needed to be for a while, but they wrote the most critical components of the OS (particularly Quickdraw) natively in the first OS release, so that the OS didn't slow things down too much. They managed to ditch an inferior architecture completely, and the result has been that the G3's are tiny, fast, and low-power compared with PIII's and K7's. And as of 8.5, almost everything is running PPC-native, so they've left the old architecture behind completely.

AMD's problem is they'll either have to convince Microsoft to support their new instruction set and implement backwards compatibility, or they'll have to write all of that themselves. Anyone know if this can be done in a way that's OS-independent, or will the backwards-compatibility features need to be OS-specific?

Good and Bad... (1)

.pentai. (37595) | about 15 years ago | (#1637895)

I'm actually worried about the stress on backward compatibility...while it is good for desktop uses and such...the people that will be running their windows applications.

But for the majority of us who are using unices...why worry about backwards compatibility? Isn't a major point of open source os's/software the ability to recompile it on this new cpu, and have it go...why worry about backwards compatibility when we just have to recompile/run?

That is one of the reasons I like to run FreeBSD and/or Linux. I can upgrade my hardware to something else (switch to a PPC if I so wish) and recompile my linux programs, and I'm set. While this isn't true 100% of the time, a good 95% is good enough for most.

Just some thoughts...

Re:Oh Swell... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637896)

I want the better product...I don't care if it is made by 3year old's in a sweatshop. If I avoided every product because of immoral business practices...I would be living in a cabin, naked and never open my eyes.

The world is a crappy place and you have to deal with it however you can. Give me some names of products you use and I will tell you the evils of that company...Tommy Hilfiger, Levi's, GM, Tupperware, Pfister...the list never ends.

Re:Winners in War (complete cliche) (1)

thc69 (98798) | about 15 years ago | (#1637897)

> Oh, and that little OS that has proved so portability friendly (and that distributes most of its apps as source code).

You mean, NetBSD?

Re:64bit vs. 32bit to end-users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637898)

Well actually...
It can mean much larger size software. I wouldn't expect double, but I've never seen software get smaller.

I know that on IRIX which has been a true 64 bit OS for years now you can use 64 bit adressing space. This doesn't give you any extra speed but it does mean you can have arrays over a gigabyte in size. The drawback is that pointers, ints and floats are 64 bit instead of 32 bit resulting in a much larger program.

Will compilers let you do this on x86 chips when they go to 64 bit?

Sledgehammer and Chip Name (1)

Marillion (33728) | about 15 years ago | (#1637899)

I think it's getting real silly the names these companies are putting on their chips. You and I both know that sledgehammer is a cool name, but the Marketoids will never let it appear on the the packaging it comes in.

Re:Apple did this successfully... (1)

David Greene (463) | about 15 years ago | (#1637900)

AMD's problem is they'll either have to convince Microsoft to support their new instruction set and implement backwards compatibility, or they'll have to write all of that themselves. Anyone know if this can be done in a way that's OS-independent, or will the backwards-compatibility features need to be OS-specific?

One way to do it is with a virtual machine - not in the sense of Java, but in the sense of OS/360-370, etc. That is, you have a Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM) at the lowest level and the OS's run on top of that. Note the plural. Not only do you have the ability to trap instructions and run them in software in an OS-neutral fashion, you can run multiple OS's simultaneously. There are lots of other benefits, like being able to swap in a new OS without disturbing existing setups and so forth.

Intel, in fact, is working on such a beast. I'm guessing it's for Merced, being an enterprise chip. They also want to use it for marketing purposes, though. Think about a Pentium III without any MMX/KNI/whatever graphics instructions in hardware. You do it in software, get the same functionality and can market your chip for really low-end systems.


Alereon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637902) s/whois?ALEREON-DOM

Re:no specs... (1)

hazydave (96747) | about 15 years ago | (#1637905)

I bet their "x86 64" is a 64-bit version of the "RISC-86" internal op-set that Athlon uses, or something similar. Of course, all modern x86 chips are really RISC engines that run RISCified x86 op-codes of one form or another. This originated at NexGen, before AMD bought them or Intel used similar techniques in the P-Pro and PII. The original Nx586 could actually run "naked" RISC-86 instructions, though no one used it that way. Now, if you take the concept forward ten years, you could define and perhaps clean up the RISC-86 instruction set as an orthogonal set with more registers, but still very x86 flavored. To the point, in fact, where the op-code translator can take the true x86 op-codes and produce 32-bit versions of the RISC-ops, but they could run naked as well, this all being determined via a context bit somewhere, to allow an OS to switch modes. Pop this onto a Slot-A module, and they might actually have something, in the ability to upgrade today's 32-bit systems in-place and compatibly. The EV6 bus of Slot-A is already proven on Alpha 21264 64-bit systems, it's not screaming to be replaces as Intel's P6 bus is. Intel, of course, announced long ago that Merced would run on a yet-to-be-described "Slot M", and suggested a version of the Pentium would lead that bus in, but this hasn't happened yet. That's not to suggest any RISC-86 notion is going to be as clean or elegant as EPIC, PPC, MAJC, or anything cool and new. On the other hand, x86 has never been about what's cool, but what's practical. AMD could pull off a coup of practicality if this Sledgehammer thing comes out in a timely fashion. That would pretty much have to be before IA-64 is established anywhere buy in UNIX servers.

Re:SledgeHammer - Good idea? Bad idea? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 15 years ago | (#1637907)

The only reason that people buy AMD is so that they can get relatively the same speed chip for a much lower price.

If this news is true, then AMD will have faster chips than what Intel offers, because there's a such tremendous lag between hardware advances and software advances. They won't just offer economy, they'll have superior performance on old code. 386 software (i.e. "32-bit") didn't get popular until about about nine years after the introduction of 386 PCs. If, between 1986 and 1995, some company had made a processor that ran 286 code faster than Intel's chips, don't you think it would have caught on?

In fact, even as late as the mid-90s, something similar to that happened: Intel had the Pentium chip, and tried to introduce the Pentium Pro, which ran 386 code faster than the Pentium, but ran 86/286 code slower. What chip did most x86 users end up buying? The Pentium, because their software wasn't compiled for the 386. The "Pro" flopped. The market chose the processor that was better at running old code.

They run the *same* programs, not *different* ones that their new 64bit will run. ..[snip].. The Macintosh may have been a better design, but who supported it, and where are they now?

Perhaps I misunderstand you, but those sound like arguments in favor of the SledgeHammer, not Merced...

Oh, by the way, speaking of Macs... I think this is good news for the PPC. If Merced and SledgeHammer split the x86 market in offering 64-bit successors to the 386, and their 64-bit instruction sets are incompatable, it will hinder Intel's (and AMD's) attempt to establish a 64-bit defacto standard. That just makes the 64-bit market easier for everyone else.


Re:I hope (1)

Suydam (881) | about 15 years ago | (#1637914)

DO you think they will make enough money on Athlon? I certainly agree with you, it's a great chip and they deserve success. BUt I haven't seen much support from the industry yet, not sure that'll change any tiem soon. It's sad really.

Re:Concentrate on the Athlon first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637915)

I believe the problem with the Athlon now is not whether AMD can supply enough processors but whether the motherboard manufacturers will get enough SlotA mobos out there soon enough. Asus still has not released their K7 motherboard and the other manufacturers products are scarce and expensive right now. As soon as the motherboard is there, then perhaps we will see processor shortages.

Re:I must agree with Hemos (1)

scumdamn (82357) | about 15 years ago | (#1637916)

Actually, maybe something by Peter Gabriel would be more appropriate.

Re:I must agree with Hemos (1)

Suydam (881) | about 15 years ago | (#1637917)

or the theme to that annoying old 80s sitcom "Sledge Hammer". Yikes! :-)

Re:AMD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637919)

best chip on the market? which market? certainly not the general computer market. x86 chips are the bottom of the bucket. (please note, i'm not trying to start an arch war here.) in fact, i can't think of a single modern arch that is as bad as x86. even 68k is still better.

Nobody gets fired for buying IBM (1)

DirkGently (32794) | about 15 years ago | (#1637921)

Or Microsoft.

Or Intel.

So the Merced (er Itanium) is going to be more of a pain in the ass to code for. They still will. Its the accepted market practice, right?

Re:I find it a bit disappointing actually (2)

Jerom (96338) | about 15 years ago | (#1637922)

I completely agree with you. The computer-industry has been dragging this backward-compatibility thing way to far... I mean who the hell is happy he can still run 80286 software on his brand-new pentium?

Look at computers these days, their entire architecture is a series of hardware "patches" on an archaic architecture. I mean, just try and count how many different bus-protocols run on your machine (PCI, AGP, ISA, IDE,...). How much memory is on every device and how efficiently is this used when the device isn't using it completely? It seems that each time we are looking for a way to enhance the speed of our machine, - in stead of redesigning - we take whatever we already have and add stuff (Yes, another extra level of cache)... This may be the best way for some upgrade but the Pc industry is what 15 years old?

When will some people finally sit down at a table and say: "What is a computer? What does it have to do? What is the most efficient way to achieve this?"

Screw that! PETER GABRIEL! (1)

Wakko Warner (324) | about 15 years ago | (#1637925)

You have to admit, "Sledgehammer" is one hell of a catchy song. Could easily use it to sell CPUs, I think.

- A.P.

"One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

How can you say it is better? (2)

verrol (43973) | about 15 years ago | (#1637927)

They have not released much info to say that it will be better than Itanium. Additionally, I am always cautious of things that promised to be easier and still yet faster. Engineers know that there is something called optimization. Usually, the ease of use variable and speed variable are competing ones. That is to say, if it is easier to program, then the chip is most likely doing more for you and will probably eat some cycles from your program. Just may 2 cents.

Winners in War (complete cliche) (1)

Hobbex (41473) | about 15 years ago | (#1637929)

I can't help but think that if Intel and AMD are going to battle it out with different 64 bit standards, the real winner is going to be PowerPC.

Oh, and that little OS that has proved so portability friendly (and that distributes most of its apps as source code).

/. is like a steer's horns, a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.

Sledge Hammer! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637934)

But who will they get to promote it?

(Close up of an Intel chip. The chip suddenly explodes and we pan to show David "Sledge Hammer" Rasche reloading his silver Magnum)

"Trust me. I know what I'm doing. And if you know what you're doing you'll be sure to choose the right 64 bit processor -- the AMD SledgeHammer! It kills the competition and with it's easy-to-program x86 64 architecture even I can write efficient code!"

(Hammer finishes loading his gun while giving this speech, turns around to face a different camera and aims the weapon directly at the viewer.)

"So remember, if you don't want to end up a cyber-chalk outline on the cyber-streets of the cyber-future get yourself a SledgeHammer!"

Good Strategic Move (2)

SimonK (7722) | about 15 years ago | (#1637935)

If what they say about having faster performance with x86 code that Merced is true, then this is a good strategy. From what I hear its very unlikely Microsoft will have an un-kludged 64-bit version of Windows NT ready by the time Merced (or even McKinley) ships. That means we're likely to see people running 32 bit Windows code on 64 bit Intel processors, and seeing only trivial performance inprovements relative to what is possible, for some time to come. Remind you of anything ?

If take-up on the IA-64 instruction set on Windows is slow, and I strongly suspect it will be because of lack of (a certain) OS support and lack of software usage, this definitely gives AMD an opening for a new (or recycled) instruction set on a processor that will run 32 bit software faster than Merced. Maybe they can even pull it off.

How will Sledgehammer compare to... (1)

smoondog (85133) | about 15 years ago | (#1637936)

So how will the sledgehammer compare to the 21264 or the Itanium (snicker)? The 21264 (Compaq) are very fast chips, and are only getting faster. Any theoretical specs out there?
-- Moondog

Re:I find it a bit disappointing actually (1)

Kintanon (65528) | about 15 years ago | (#1637937)

When will some people finally sit down at a table and say: "What is a computer? What does it have to do? What is the most efficient way to achieve this?"

One Word: Transmeta


Re:Back In The Good Old Days . . . (1)

Kamikaze (3777) | about 15 years ago | (#1637938)

"...what kind of benchmarks it achieves (and no, I don't mean how many FPS it gives you when you're fragging in Quake3)."

Isn't that the sort of thing that drives upgrading and all the rest? Really, if all I was doing was compiling code and doing minimal webserving (nevermind that that's exactly what I'm doing, yet I have a k6-2 300), I'd probably be relatively happy with a 1MB video card and a 486DX. My machine compiles code at a speed that's fast enough for me, so, if I'm looking for benchmarks that have nothing to do with FPS, why would I want to spend all the money on excessive hardware?

Feed the mill: AMD, Sledgehammer and Transmeta? (1)

knarf (34928) | about 15 years ago | (#1637939)

Hey, did AMD not recently proclaim something 'bout Transmeta's interest in using their Dresden fab for their whiz-bang-gizmo-processor? Why not connect these together and create a Transhammer-Sladgemeta-whatever. I mean, that rumour mill want to be fed, right? And you have to forge the Itanium^Wiron when it is hot, not?


1 down : Intel's new chip, quietly though (0)

Artichoke (34549) | about 15 years ago | (#1637940)

Sh! Itanium


Re:I must agree with Hemos (1)

KaosDG (85348) | about 15 years ago | (#1637943)

Hmm.. Peter Gabriel's SledgeHammer would be a nice "commercial" theme... but what about
"Hammer Smashed Face" by Cannibal Corpse? It seems that's what they want to do to Intel anyway.
it just *screams* Death Metal.
(It's on the Ace Ventura 1 Soundtrack, in case anyones interested)

64-bit CISC or RISC (1)

cd-w (78145) | about 15 years ago | (#1637944)

Unfortunately this article is rather short on details. What I would like to know is how
AMD intend to extend the x86 intruction set
into 64-bits. I really hope they don't
just tweak the old CISC x86 instruction set with new addressing mode or something like that.
It would be much better for them to design a new 64-bit instruction set (or base it on the Alpha).
They could do this while still maintaining compatibility as follows:

The modern generation of x86 processors
all use a 32-bit RISC-like core with a hardware
translation from 32-bit x86 CISC.
AMD could
design a 64-bit RISC core and a hardware translation from 32-bit x86 CISC to 64-bit RISC.
They could then allow programmers to
bypass the translation and program directly for the RISC core, while still allowing x86 code to be executed.

Actually, I strongly suspect that this IS the way that AMD will go. The old NexGen CPUs (which AMD bought) allowed programs to be written directly for the RISC core bypassing the x86 translation step. However, I don't think any programs were ever written to take advantage of this.

Re:I find it a bit disappointing actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637946)

Lots of us are happy we can still run 286 software on our Pentiums.

No, not games, desktop apps, or other frivolous toys. Development tools, like Cross Assemblers, Debuggers, and Emulators/Simulators. Stuff that gets really expensive and doesn't need to be upgraded every six months.

If you want 'leading edge' performance without any backward compatablity, keep buying your game consoles.

Re:I must agree with Hemos (1)

tweek (18111) | about 15 years ago | (#1637954)

I would have to agree. That was the first thing that came to MY mind. Of course I've been listening to the Coal Chamber/Ozzy remake of shock the monkey since the new cd came out so I've got Peter Gabriel on the brain.

Back In The Good Old Days . . . (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 15 years ago | (#1637955)

I miss the days when a 286 was a 286 and a 486 was a 486. Sure, you had different brands of 286's and 486's but they didn't clutter the scene with these stupid names.

I'm not going to buy a SledgeHammer or Itanium because they have some consumer-friendly name. My decision, like most others, will be based on whether it can handle MP3's without skipping and what kind of benchmarks it achieves (and no, I don't mean how many FPS it gives you when you're fragging in Quake3).

Of course, I suppose we have Andy Groves and Intel to thank for this rediculous trend back when they were scared-to-death that they would lose business, not to a better product, but to the fact that they could not patent a number. (Sorry Davey, we can't teach you to count to ten because Intel owns the number five.)

Now every company employs legions of brain-dead marketing types who spend an entire year to come up with something as brilliant as Itanium. I could have asked a class of first-grade children to suggest more interesting and appealing names than these.

Whoops... Look what time it is... I better get back to my E-work on my I-machine before my Net-boss rips me a new A-hole. (After all, we're now being surveilled by a fleet of Radio-Shack cameras).

Re:And Microsoft lags behind... (1)

Bartmoss (16109) | about 15 years ago | (#1637956)

And I was gonna ask - what user do you think would not only notice the performance hit, but also know what is to blame?

People are used to getting abysmal performance out of their machines. Few computers you buy "as is" are decent. It isn't so long ago that you'd still buy computers with 32 MB of ram - WAY too much for Win95, let alone Win98 or even NT.

As for professional use, well, I guess they won't be upgrading to Merced (I refuse to call it That New Name) too soon. Or maybe they'll just get free update vouchers for Windows 2064 with every Merced.

What's the bottom line? I dunno.

Interesting info/analysis at The Register (2)

ChrisRijk (1818) | about 15 years ago | (#1637957)

AMD takes SledgeHammer approach to beating Intel's Merced []

Interesting times up ahead for CPUs... Sun's UltraSparc-III should be selling by December, and looks pretty damn speedy. More and faster Alpha's coming. Merced is just a test/development platform btw, and won't be that great anyway - the IA-64 design itself has some designed-in limitations, and the Merced design is already a bit of a hack. (anyone want details?) btw, I was reading up some interesting info about Sun's MAJC chip, which is aimed at embedded designs with high-speed data processing, is in a couple of major ways it's actually quite like the IA-64 design, except it has a bunch of other extra spiffy things to make it faster. (want info...?)

Good strategy (4)

joshv (13017) | about 15 years ago | (#1637958)

This is definitely a compromise solution, but it could work well for AMD. I think that Intel is underestimating the need for backward compatibility (and high performance backward compatibility). Intel is convinced that they now have the market presence required to force the move to an entirely new architecture.

The only problem is if there is an alternative, and AMD appears to be poised to offer just such an alternative.

If they can deliver on the performance end, and I think they can, they will offer a much more attractive solution to users and developers. Users won't have to upgrade apps and OS to get better performance, and it sounds like developers of high end apps might have to make only minor changes to adapt their software to use the 64 bit aspects of the chip.

AMD has essentially decided to continue in the path that Intel has followed for the last 15 years. Intel has decided to veer off that path in favor of a new architecture. AMD has decided that there might still be a few years of profitability in it, and I think that they are right.


But what else can they do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1637959)

According to the article, the chip will still be compatible with IA-32 software. To use the merced instruction set wouldn't they have to license it from intel, and do you think Intel would cooperate? Seems to me, for AMD to enter the 64-bit chip wars, they have to design their own.

Those sayings really can't be true, though... (2)

Wakko Warner (324) | about 15 years ago | (#1637960)

Somewhere, at some point in time, there must be *someone* who's been fired for buying Microsoft. Any company that ships millions of units can't possibly have a 100% customer satisfaction rating (and, God, this is Microsoft we're talking about), and more than a few of those customers must have to report to someone higher up on the ladder when something breaks. I bet quite a few people have been fired for buying Microsoft. (Or Intel, or IBM...)

- A.P.

"One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

Reuse existing 64bit architechture? (2)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | about 15 years ago | (#1637961)

Would it be feasible for them to reimplement one of the existing 64 architechtures (Alpha, MIPS, SPARC, PPC) while keeping support for IA32 in the same chip?

64bit x86?! (1)

heh2k (84254) | about 15 years ago | (#1637962)

when will the madness end?! i can't believe AMD would want to extend such a horrible arch to 64bits. even intel isn't that dumb! i have no doubt that people will buy this, however, just as i have no doubt that people will continue to buy inferior products from MS.

hopefully x86 will die in the next few years (of course, it'll still be around in the embedded world).

Re:And Microsoft lags behind... (2)

Delphis (11548) | about 15 years ago | (#1637963)

This seems somewhat surprising, as I would expect Intel to pay close attention to the needs of their good pal, Microsoft. Hmm.. Have you read about the anti-trust case against Microsoft? .. I could have sworn that Intel didn't like MS at all .. let alone be a 'pal' of theirs. And again Intel was also investing in RedHat a little while ago too ... So I don't think the welfare of MS is something Intel really gives a damn about, IMHO. Still, who can predict what will happen. Crystal ball gazing is always amusing..

SledgeHammer - Good idea? Bad idea? (2)

Geisel (12180) | about 15 years ago | (#1637984)

Is AMD spreading themselves too thin? Will everyone jump on the Merced bandwagon and abandon the new AMD chip? Does AMD have the ability to keep up with Intel? I think the first question is probably moot. I would imagine AMD has their share of engineers working on the Athlon. Now they've got to continue future development and that's exactly what they're doing. I can't argue with that strategy. Everyone has to keep pre-planning.

As to everyone skipping out on AMD to head for the Merced chip, I doubt it. Come on, we're all pulling for a new processor that brings us out of the bulky instruction set of 1978 (& probably earlier) 8086s and so forth. We'd love to see Merced be the "chip of the future" and everything else I'm sure Intel is boasting it as. However, we've got to face the music. If someone gives us an opportunity to avoid a drastic change in the x86 instruction set, we'll take it. It sounds like SledgeHammer should kick Merced's butt on running 32 bit code, and we're just gonna have that stuff running around. It doesn't sound like it will be too hard to port stuff to the new AMD chip while Intel's chip may take some work.

I think what it comes down to is AMD opens a new market. People who don't want to spend tons on new ports, but want their code to execute at speeds not limited by 32 bits and 100MHz busses and so forth. (233MHz Athlons soon? -- that rocks!) This then gives AMD an opportunity to produce another chip (Bulldozer perhaps?) that may support Merced, or may not. Depending on how Merced catches on.

I say kudos to AMD. They've got to make a move to pass Intel somehow and it can't come from following in their shadow. They've got to get this show on the road and make a presumptive move. I think they picked a great choice. Not getting stuck in the middle of the road, but not totally commiting to something completely different.


At least if it doesn't work no one can put it on the Periodic Table of Intel Chip Flops.

Re:And Microsoft lags behind... (1)

Yeshua (93307) | about 15 years ago | (#1637985)

Indeed, but has that ever slowed M$ before? The larger market usually seems quite unaware that there are better, viable, alternatives to the standard Intel/M$ combination, and while people are beginning to awaken to these possibilities, will it suddenly happen with Sledgehammer? I think they're really going out on a limb with their 64bit architecture different to Intel, and I just don't think the larger market is ready for that shift...fingers crossed for the other though.

Re:I find it a bit disappointing actually (3)

David Greene (463) | about 15 years ago | (#1637986)

Backwards compatability. From what I've been reading in the past about processors, this is the key "feature" that keeps system speeds down. It's one of the reason RISC processors are faster than their x86 counterparts.

It's not so much the backwards compatability as the fact that the ISA was not designed properly in the first place. Actually, the x86 is pretty close to being a really good compiler target. The offset+base+index*scale addressing can be put to good use. The problem is the non-orthogonality of the instruction set (rep movs takes a byte count only in ECX, etc.).

The 386 was somewhat unfortunate because it seems to have come along "too early." My hope is that AMD will do one of two things:

  • Drop the 16 bit segmented architecture and emulate it in software when needed.
  • Emulate the whole blasted x86 in software a la Compaq's FX!32 or HP's Dynamo.

Dynamic compilation (or "JIT" or whatever) has come a long way in recent years. I hope AMD takes note of it. By moving the more ugly parts of x86 into software, AMD can hopefully design a more efficient core for whatever 64-bit ISA they dream up. If it's built on x86, then AMD should put the 32-bit and 64-bit parts in hardware (adding the appropriate opcodes and formats to get a truly orthogonal ISA) and do everything else in software.

It will be interesting to see what happens.


no specs... (1)

Haven (34895) | about 15 years ago | (#1637987)

I just don't like it when companies say they are going to release a new product without any important specs. They say that they aren't going to be "compatible" with intel chips. Does that mean they aren't going to make the EPIC chipset? Is it going to be RISC? "x86 64"? Does that mean its going to be CISC? They didn't even release the starting speeds. These are little tidbits people need to know when they are planning to buy the 64bit AMD instead of buying the "Itanium". At least we know it won't be crap.

heh. (2)

psichan (94135) | about 15 years ago | (#1637988)

it would be interesting to see if someone took the name the wrong way and tried to break walls with it. I can see it now. "*blam blam blam* Damnit!" "whats wrong?" "this new sledghammer only breaks itself! And I spent $5000 on it!" "uh.."

Re:I must agree with Hemos (1)

mattc (12417) | about 15 years ago | (#1637989)

You've got to be kidding!! Don't ruin a cool chip name with a bad music theme.

Re:AMD (1)

skelly (38870) | about 15 years ago | (#1637990)

Unless of coarse you mean 640K? That ought to be enough for anybody... ;-)
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