Wipe the gunk out of your eyes
Posted Oct 3, 2007 23:02 UTC (Wed) by filker0
In reply to: Yawn.
Parent article: Memory part 2: CPU caches
We're hearing this tune for quarter-century: in the next few years x86 will be hopelessly outmatched and replace by fade-of-the-day (RISC, VLIW, EPIC, etc). This predictions stubbornly fail to materialize. The fact is: unless you can show drastic increase in speed (not percents, times) - no one will bother. Even if will show drastic increase in speed - you'll only manage to grab tiny niche if you can not run existing tasks as well as x86-solution (see Itanic vs Opteron). So any solution which have any hope of winning must include x86. It can include specialized instructions and cores (for multi-core CPUs) which can only be used by specialized software, but if it's not x86-compatible at all - it's no starter.
It already happened. Years ago. The Alpha RISC processor could run (at a given clock speed and generation of fabrication) anything else on most typical loads. The x86 architecture is, indeed, going to be around for a long time; this has been perpetuated in no small part by Microsoft and their line of operating systems that have depended so much on backward compatibility. Yes, NT was available for the Alpha, but I know of very few apps that were made available for it. DEC fumbled the marketing of the Alpha, Compaq sold it off to Intel, and Intel, having the choice of continuing its development at the expense of the (inferior in my opinion) Itanium decided to do no further development and End-of-Life it as quickly as contractually possible.
Yes, we're stuck with the i86 lineage, and we will suffer performance ceilings because of it. Ultra-high performance systems will use something else, but the average application end user won't move so long as the dominant OS is bound to intel and insufficient commercial apps aren't available on the other platforms. The Mac could as easily move from the Intel chips to some other CPU in the future -- Apple has enough foresight to provide for fat apps (OS/2 did this, too). Linux is available on just about everything with a register, a stack, and more than 1MB of RAM. For the most part, Open Software can run on anything.
But for most of you, yes, the already hopelessly outmatched x86 line is the chain around your ankle for the next decade.
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