January 16th, 2011 ~ by admin

CPU of the Week: Intergraph Clipper C4 MCM


Fairchild developed the Clipper architecture in 1986, and sold it to Intergraph in 1987.  The design never enjoyed wide success and was only used in systems made by Integraph, as well as some by ‘High Level Hardware.’  The deign itself was RISC like and competed mainly with the Sun SPARC processors.

The final version was the C400 which was released in 1993 (preceded by the C100 and C300). Presumably there was a C200 but I have not seen any documentation on it.  The C400 ran at 50MHz (like the C300) and actually consisted of 3 separate chips. The CPU, the FPU and the CAMMU (Cache/Memory Management Unit).  Intergraph developed their own version of UNIX called CLIX to run on the clipper, and demonstrated a version of Windows NT that ran on the C400 as well. Ultimately the lack of software support, and the slow adoption killed the Clipper.  While Intergraph was designing the C5, Intel assured them a good supply of processors, and this convinced Intergraph to cancel the C5.

Intergraph C4 MCM

It was also available as a MCM (multi-chip-module) incorporating all three dies in a single ceramic package.  This is one of the nicest looking MCMs I have seen, unfortunately the bottom plate was missing when I got it, but the dies are at least visible.  I unfortunately am not sure which die is which so if you know, let me know.

February 4th, 2009 ~ by admin

Mystery Uncovered: National Winbond Nuvoton PC97551

So I bought some chips on eBay, they arrived, and are New Old Stock, made in 2004, really fairly recent.  I have a datasheet for them that is marked Winbond which I found rather strange, since the chips, as you can see are marked National. This in itself isn’t super unusual. Occasionally a smaller company will use a larger companies markings to get design wins. The larger company acts in essance like a co-signer, validating and approving of the design.

National PC97551

National PC97551

Winbond isn’t small though, and the datasheet was marked 2006.  A quick look on Winbond’s site shows no info on this chip. Turns out Winbond spun off their controller business to a company called Nuvoton. And  how did Winbond get the desgin? Yup, National sold off their Super I/O and embedded controller division to Winbond in 2005.

And it is of course a processor, in this case a 16bit RISC processor running at 20MHz based on the (formerly) National CompactRISC architecture.

February 3rd, 2009 ~ by admin

Software Configurable Processors – The Stretch S6000 Line

When designing a system, the best performance is often reached by using an ASIC, you can customize it to your design and tweak it for maximum performance.  This, however, adds costly development time, and little flexiblility.  You could use a general purpose processor; this saves dev time, and cost, but at the expense of performance.  What if you could have both? Off the shelf processor technology, AND customizable speed.

You can. This is what Software Configurable Processors are designed for. In simple terms they are a standard CPU core, wrapped in a FPGA.  This way istructions for the processort can be configured for maximun speed.  If you have a function in your code that is repetitive, it can be reduced to a single instruction for the processor.

stretchlogo

One of the leaders in Software Configurable Processors is called Stretch. Their S6000 line of processors use a Tensilica Xtensa core (a VLIW RISC design), wrapped in a custom FPGA. In this way the RISC core can be programmaed on the fly, providing much faster performance then a normal processor, or DSP.

January 26th, 2009 ~ by admin

Renesas Dual-Core for your car

Automotive computing in manyways is similar to your personal computer, and the same inherent problems.  On your PC it is good to have the OS  isolated from the normal applications (especially the internet browser). Same thing in your car, you do not want the navigation and media player functions to be able to interfere or crash the control computer.  This is why most cars have DOZENS of computers.  Renesas has just announced the SH7776, a dual SH-4A cored CPU. One core for the information systems, and one for the control systems.  They share a common memory set, but it is segmented to prevent any problems.  Each core runs at a whopping 533MHz and can output almost 2000 MIPS.

Clearly thats not enough for Renesas, they through in a graphics core too, a PowerVR core with 3D Rendering.

Renesas

Source: EEProduct Center