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RISC Chip Innovators Receive 2022 Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering


The Charles Starke Draper Prize for Engineering.

Today, virtually every person with a portable computing device benefits from RISC chips due to their low-power feature, which yields a much longer battery life.

Credit: National Academy of Engineering

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced today that the 2022 Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering will be awarded to David A. Patterson, John L. Hennessy, Stephen B. Furber, and Sophie M. Wilson "for contributions to the invention, development, and implementation of reduced instruction set computer (RISC) chips." The $500,000 biennial award is given to engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society. The Draper Prize will be presented at a gala dinner event in Washington, D.C.

"I am honored to present this year's Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering to Hennessy, Patterson, Furber, and Wilson," said NAE President John L. Anderson.  "The benefits of their work have been enormous in today's digital world. This innovation has stimulated the creation of numerous and various low-power portable devices, thus becoming a major driver of economic growth."

The reduced instruction set computer is a microprocessor designed to simplify the individual instructions given to the computer to realize a task. RISC chips streamline and accelerate data processing by minimizing the complexity of instructions handled directly by the microprocessor and by relying on compilers to break down complex operations into these simpler elements. Today, about 99% of all new computer chips use the RISC architecture.

Patterson and Hennessy led parallel but independent teams in the 1980s at Berkeley and Stanford developing the RISC architectural concepts under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Very Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) project. They also implemented working prototype RISC chips that could be easily evaluated for speed, complexity, performance on real computing problems, and power consumption. This approach was considered implausible before their efforts and results. Furber and Wilson advanced the commercialization of this technology at Acorn, a U.K. company, by designing a microprocessor originally called the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM), later changed to Advanced RISC Machine when ARM Ltd. was established in 1990. They challenged the commercial giants of computing at the time, becoming a huge success and further establishing themselves in the sector.

From National Academy of Engineering
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