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A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture


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computer hardware cityscape

Credit: Peter Crowther Associates

We began our Turing Lecture June 4, 201811 with a review of computer architecture since the 1960s. In addition to that review, here, we highlight current challenges and identify future opportunities, projecting another golden age for the field of computer architecture in the next decade, much like the 1980s when we did the research that led to our award, delivering gains in cost, energy, and security, as well as performance.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."—George Santayana, 1905

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Software talks to hardware through a vocabulary called an instruction set architecture (ISA). By the early 1960s, IBM had four incompatible lines of computers, each with its own ISA, software stack, I/O system, and market niche—targeting small business, large business, scientific, and real time, respectively. IBM engineers, including ACM A.M. Turing Award laureate Fred Brooks, Jr., thought they could create a single ISA that would efficiently unify all four of these ISA bases.


 

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