The Robots Are Getting Closer - 3
The Cell


Future Index

Can Computers Become Fast Enough and Cheap Enough Soon Enough?
 The following quotations are taken from a C-Net article, (Chip trio allows glimpse into "Cell"  - C/Net), published on August 6, 2002.
    "While the processor's design is still under wraps, the companies say Cell's capabilities will allow it to deliver one trillion calculations per second (teraflop) or more of floating-point calculations. It will have the ability to do north of 1 trillion mathematical calculations per second, roughly 100 times more than a single Pentium 4 chip running at 2.5GHz.
    "Cell will likely use between four and 16 general-purpose processor cores per chip. A game console might use a chip with 16 cores, while a less complicated device like a set-top box would have a processor with fewer, said Peter Glaskowsky, editor in chief of influential industry newsletter Microprocessor Report. Some of these cores might perform computational functions, while others could control audio or graphics."  
    This next quotation is taken from PlayStation 3: The next generation - C/Net.  Mr. Okamoto is the Chief Technical Officer for Sony Computer Entertainment.
    "Moore's Law is too slow for us," Okamoto said, referring to the long-held truism that semiconductor power doubles roughly every 18 months. "We can't wait 20 years" to achieve a 1,000-fold increase in PlayStation performance, he said.
    How much will "Cell" cost? The price can't be too great if, as rumored, Sony plans to use it in Playstation 3.
    The article goes on to say that "Cell" is nearly taped out (as of 8/6/2002), and that "At this rate, commercial production of Cell could come as soon as the end of 2004."
    So it would appear that by 2005, 1-teraflops chips will exist. It also sounds as though part of this speed might  come from chips that are reconfigurable on the fly.
    IBM has mentioned using "The Cell" in its line of servers to compete with Sun and Intel. They might follow Intel's lead and reserve Cell the way Intel has reserved Itanium for their server market alone. Still, you wouldn't expect it to take long for Cell technology to diffuse to other sources and applications.

Too Early to Strike Up the Band?
    Clearly, it's too early to celebrate just yet. Although "The Cell" will become commercially available in late 2004, it's not clear to whom, and for what. (It's scheduled for introduction in 2005.) 
    The idea of a chip that is 100 times faster than a 2.5 GHz Pentium 4 is tantalizing. Of course, by the end of 2005, the Pentium 4 should be running 4-to-5 times faster than it operates now, reducing the Cell's lead to 25-to-1 or less.
    There will be strong competitive responses to "The Cell". Dramatically improved technological developments have a history of turning out to be less than meets the eye. 

Later (1/8/2003):
    This article that just appeared today, PlayStation 3 Architecture Revealed, sheds further light on the Cell. Each Cell will contain a PowerPC, with 8 ("Altivec"?) floating point processors. It will run at 4 GHz, producing 256 gigaflops (32 gigaflops per floating-point processor) per Cell. The Playstation 3 will probably utilize four Cells to achieve a one teraflops operating speed. The Cells will communicate with a 64 megabyte central memory through a switched, 1,024-bit-wide Rambus. Operating at 3.2 GHz, the bus should be capable of 409.6-gigabyte-per-second transfer rates. Sony seeks out Rambus for Playstation3 technology. "And here's the relevant US patent.".
    (This doesn't square with the 4 to 16 general purpose processor cores per chip described above. I'm thinking there might be four to 16 PowerPC's per chip, giving the Cell 256 to 1,024 gigaflops output with each floating point processor generating 8 gigaflops. But we'll see.)
    The problem with parallel processing is that it slows down to a crawl when when there are IF-THEN tests have to be performed in which a decision has to be made based upon a previously computed result. Still, many robotics calculations may work very well this way. - IBM, Sony, Toshiba to develop advanced IC ... - Sony expected to use IBM architecture in ...
Self-Healing. Not a graphics engine or PowerPC. Aimed at consumer and networking applications.

News- New 'Cell' chip reveals many talents
Multiple personalities. Multiple processor cores, embedded peer-to-peer networks. Peter Glasskowsky, editor of Microprocessor Report, doesn't see "The Cell" as revolutionary. Richard Doherty thinks software will lag behind. (Linux will be its operating system.)

ZDNet |UK| - News - Chips Central - Story - IBM to share chip ...

News- New 'Cell' chip reveals many talents

Toshiba, Sony Reveal Advanced Semiconductor Process Technologies ...

Playstation 3 News - Sony Playstation3 (PS3)


PCs are going to disappear forever

PS3 to put Microsoft out of business- -

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