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I Come to Bury the Internet, and to Praise It, Part 1

I recently moved to Ivins, Utah. Go ahead. Try to find it on a map. It’s a suburb of a suburb of St. George, which itself isn’t very large. One of many concerns during the move was getting Internet service in the subdivision where I moved. We’re a bit out of town, even for Ivins, and there are not that many choices. I’ve gotten 10 Mbps DSL Internet services from AT&T for about 30 years, first in Massachusetts and then in San Jose, California. However, AT&T no esta aqui – they’ … Read More → "I Come to Bury the Internet, and to Praise It, Part 1"

Are You Ready to Lay Your Hands on the World’s First Universal Processor?

One of the things I really enjoy is bacon sandwiches, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about here. Another thing I enjoy is watching a startup company evolve from being a twinkle in its founder’s eye to purveying its first product.

Way back in the mists of time we used to call May 2020 (which is two long years ago as I pen these words), Jim Turley wrote a column on the topic of < … Read More → "Are You Ready to Lay Your Hands on the World’s First Universal Processor?"

What? MORE 8-Bit Microcontrollers?

With all the talk about 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, and 64-bit processors that is constantly swirling around us, I’m not sure how many of today’s younger engineers are aware that the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 4004, was a 4-bit machine (although, in hindsight — which is the one true science — the part number is a bit (no pun intended) of a giveaway).

As an aside, if you ever want to learn more about how the 4004 — and hence our modern world — came to be, I heartily recommend the columns that were … Read More → "What? MORE 8-Bit Microcontrollers?"

Powering FPGAs is a Giant Hassle. Here’s Some Help.

When I first started working for an FPGA company a decade ago, I was stunned to find out how many power supply rails these parts required. I’d never encountered chips that needed five to ten (or more) power supply rails. Even back in the old, old PMOS days, chips needed only three supply voltages and, for a few fortunate decades, 5 volts was all you ever needed for a power supply. Somehow, someone gave permission to FPGA designers to go hog wild with their over-the-top power supply requirements. This unhappy characteristic isn’t unique to one … Read More → "Powering FPGAs is a Giant Hassle. Here’s Some Help."

Reimagining How Humans Engage with Machines and Data

I was just chatting with the folks at Synaptics about their recently launched FlexSense family of teeny-tiny multi-modal smart sensor processors. Actually, I was thinking about using “Teeny-Tiny Multi-Modal Smart Sensor Processors” as the title for this column, but I saw “Reimagining How Humans Engage with Machines and Data” on some of their materials and I … Read More → "Reimagining How Humans Engage with Machines and Data"

Can HLS Partitioning Speed Up Placement and Routing of FPGA Designs? Yes, Oh Yes!

FPGA place-and-route software goes too fast, said no one ever. In fact, FPGA vendors have spent considerable effort in making their design software run faster on multicore processors. A paper recently presented at the ACM’s FPGA 2022 conference titled “RapidStream: Parallel Physical Implementation of FPGA HLS Designs,” describes a very interesting approach to pushing HLS designs through FPGA design software running on multicore processors faster. The paper – authored by a large team of researchers at UCLA, AMD-Xilinx, Ghent University, and Cornell University – describes RapidStream, which is an automated partitioning algorithm that slices up a dataflow design … Read More → "Can HLS Partitioning Speed Up Placement and Routing of FPGA Designs? Yes, Oh Yes!"

Autonomous John Deere Tractor Farms All Alone

When people talk of classic science fiction, there are several names that spring to mind, one being the English writer, artist, and anthology editor, Brian W. Aldiss, who is best known for his science fiction novels and short stories.

I was just skimming through his bibliography, and so many titles triggered memories from when I gorged myself on these tales when I was a young lad, many of which are with me on my office shelves as I pen these words, for example, Read More → "Autonomous John Deere Tractor Farms All Alone"

How the Intel 8088 Got Its Bus

The IBM PC (aka the IBM 5150) had such a massive impact on computing history that origin stories about the machine are legion. Many books have been written to tell the stories of a rag-tag group of isolated engineers in IBM’s Entry Systems Business, down in Boca Raton, Florida. William C. Lowe initially led the group. He got the job after he told IBM’s Corporate Management Committee that IBM could not create a microcomputer from scratch inside the company due to fossilized thinking and corporate culture. IBM’s only hope, said Lowe, was to acquire … Read More → "How the Intel 8088 Got Its Bus"

Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane? No, It’s Superflash memBrain!

Have you ever heard people talking about a new star of comedy, music, stage, or screen, describing them as “an overnight success”? If you investigate, you often discover that this “overnight success” followed a decade or more of hard work in the metaphorical trenches.

This reminds me of a cartoon I saw once talking about “the ‘peasant look’ that only the aristocracy can afford,” but I’m going to try to not wander off into the weeds…

Having said that, one more thing I … Read More → "Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane? No, It’s Superflash memBrain!"

An FPGA Flies on Mars

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.
In fact it’s cold as hell – Elton John, Rocketman 

Mars is hard. Only 26 of 56 missions sent to Mars have been successful. Landing on Mars is especially hard. Even though Mars’s gravity is only a third of Earth’s, the planetary atmosphere is 100 times thinner, which makes a soft landing by parachute impossible for mission … Read More → "An FPGA Flies on Mars"

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