Wherein Mike Warot describes a novel approach to computing which follows George Gilders call to waste transistors.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

HRSA - Close, but no cigar

I came across this PowerPoint about HRSA: High-Speed,
Hierarchical Synchronous Reconfigurable Array which is part of the BRASS Project University of California at Berkeley via a google search.

They figured out that long interconnects are a problem when you're trying to get speed out of a logic array, but don't seem to be willing to give up the big complex interconnection logic.

I'd call this a step closer to the bit grid, but definitely not a hit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Instruction Systolic Array

The BitGrid is based on the idea of data flowing through a grid of instructions. The logical inverse of this situation is to have the data remain in place, while instructions to modify it flow past it... this is the Instruction Systolic Array.

The idea is intriguing because it offers a way to get the benefits of the systolic array without having to have all of the bandwidth necessary to update all of the cells at once. The web site is well thought out and informative as well. I like the illustration of the matrix multiply using their concept.

There are a lot of architectures that got skipped along the way to our current crop of FPGA and other programmable logic circuits. I think that the systolic array warrants further consideration as well as the BitGrid.

Friday, July 18, 2008

BitGrid - A minimalist systolic array

Sometimes the key to everything is to find the right words... the right words to explain a concept, the right words to feed into a search engine. I've learned some new words to explain the BitGrid, and they help tie it into the history of computing a bit better, and give context. The two words are
systolic array

The bitgrid as I imagined it way back in the 1980s is a systolic array. It takes information, and processes pieces of it simultaneously. It's an extension of the then-common idea of a bit-slice processor, which was used to create really fast custom processors before the microprocessor really took off.

The BitGrid is a minimalist bidirectional systolic array. According to the wikipedia entry on the subject, the pros and cons of systolic arrays are:


  • Faster
  • Scalable


  • Expensive
  • They are a highly specialized for particular applications.
  • Difficult to build

The fact that I want to process 4 bits at a time means that each cell is almost trivial, a 4bit wide 4address line EEPROM table, for a total of 64 bits of information. This makes it cheap and easy to design and build, pretty much wiping out the Cons in the table above. I don't have a way to get silicon, yet but I expect it should be the matter of getting a cell and it's addressing logic right, then replicating a big grid of these onto a single chip.

I've figured out that a n bit multiplier requires n*(n-1) cells. A divider takes the same number of cells. Adding and subtracting n bits requires n cells.

It's amazing how little of this can be found via a straightforward Google search, unless you know exactly which magic words to use. Semantic web searches will add value, should they ever actually get here.

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I fix things, I take pictures, I write, and marvel at the joy of life. I'm trying to leave the world in better condition than when I found it.