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Transmeta Claims Five Year Lead Over Intel/AMD 173

safariman writes: "An article on Yahoo news reports that Transmeta is claiming a five year lead over Intel and AMD. Does anyone else think this claim is a bit excessive? After all, Transmeta itself is not five years old. Besides, once an idea is public, it is a lot easier to copy."
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Transmeta Claims Five Year Lead Over Intel/AMD

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  • by sashae ( 9542 )
    chipzilla and amd will be ripping off any ideas within months of it's final release as a product...

  • If the strategy of the Transmeta chips is to emulate other CPUs, its kind of ironic that they will be using "5 year off technology" to emulate present CPUs?

    Thats like using a Pentium III as basically a really fast ;-)
  • Lets hope the CPU Software is not easily programmed from the OS, otherwise it opens the door for a virus that could take out the CPU itself.

  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:01AM (#752962)
    Hmm.. I can understand there claim - in terms of battery life et all, but what about speed and power?

    I have so many questions about Transmeta, that I just cant get answered - makes it seem a little hard to back up a claim like this when they are so reclusive.

    For example, what do they see as the upper MHz limit for Crusoe? What do they anticipate is the cieling for extending this architecture? What do they hope to improve? It seems like they have a good start - but its not even to market yet.

    And its more than that - what about SMP? What about other instruction sets? How does it compare to StrongArm chips? How about newer architectures like IA64?

    For me, I can't see myself being the first with a Crusoe laptop. I want to be - but I cant help but feel that it might not work out - and the fact that I cant find details that I want to know - thats a little disconcerting.

    My understanding was also that Transmeta has had some serious detractors, as well as successes. I always hear about the rumorored underpowered feeling to Crusoe products.

    I know this may sound like FUD- probably because it is. There are so few details about Crusoe you could only call its future 'uncertain'. Same with its core technology. So little has been disclosed how can we judge the varicity of the claim they make?

  • by JimDabell ( 42870 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:02AM (#752963) Homepage

    Besides, once an idea is public, it is a lot easier to copy.

    ...and [] illegal [] if [] they [] hold [] patents []. Course, I can forgive you if you weren't aware they had any :)

  • by wyn ( 179532 )
    This is a luidicrous statement. No technology is that much ahead. that would be like the AMD having the athlon at the same time as Intel came out with the P200mmx. It is basically inconceivable that Transmeta would be that much ahead of industry leaders like Intel, and AMD. -wyn
  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:02AM (#752965) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps this is an effort to help build up their stock value, along with a general PR effort.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:03AM (#752966)

    Transmeta now has a five year lead over Intel in the announcement of products that I cannot purchase yet

    I thought M$ was the leader in this field.

  • At least other people around here are finally beginning to see through their bullshit hype.

    Now that that's been accomplished, I think I'll focus my efforts on teaching Slashdotters how to READ THE FUCKING ARTICLES before they post. That way they could avoid completely making complete asses out of themselves like they did in that NTFS/Linux Kernel debacle or the Chris DiBona/Outlook fiasco. I'm not optimistic, but the results will be worth it!


  • Crusoe chips, from my understanding, basicly offload many of the previously on-chip architecture-specific routines in order to handle lower power output. If this is the only area in which crusoe is "advanced" (i.e. in that it handles multiple types of architectures with only one chip), I can only see a slight lead in that area, and little else. If a processor has to be an X86 type, and Crusoe isn't the *all around* best X86 type processor for the money, I can't even see where they'd have a slight advantage.
  • 'Besides, once an idea is public, it is a lot easier to copy'

    It's all about direction. Transmeta's technology could give others new inspiration. It can be much easier to let inventor's invent, and then copy and improve upon later (Hey you, Microsoft!).
  • Can someone explain to me the difference between the stocker symbols INTL and INTC? I thought INTC was for Intel Corporation, but then what does INTL stand for (more than plain 'Intel') and why are there two of them?

    (this is a bit off-topic, sorry!)
  • by crgrace ( 220738 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:04AM (#752971)
    Crusoe chip which uses software to perform many functions previously done by hardware, enabling lighter PC notebooks with much longer battery life.

    Anyone remember microcode? You could put your CPU control unit into a set of microinstructions in ROM that would tell your ALU what operations to take and you wouldn't have to design a complex controller. The above sounds similar. Is that, essentially, what Crusoe does? I know it is a lot more complex than the Mircocode of the 1970s and 1980s but one of the coolest aspects of Microcode is that you could emulate other instructions and so it made it easier to make a CPU compatible with earlier units.

    It seems to me like Crusoe is a very advanced implementation of microcode, but purely in software. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't one of the primary features of Crusoe that it emulates the Instruction Set of different processors, such as x86, in Software?

    How is that 5 years ahead?

  • In what vapor-ware? Transmeta hasn't even made a production chip (to my knowledge). As much as I want to see Transmeta chips do well, having a five year lead is worthless, if no one sees or uses it.
  • 5 years is a bit of a stretch, but on the other hand, they may have a significant lead. Of course, to admit that they have a lead is to concede that their technology is the right way to go. If you accept that, then, yes, it will take the other chip makers quite a while to switch to that type of processor design. Consider that it takes Intel several years to develop each chip generation, and that's when the fundamental design technology is similar.

    So it could well take Intel or AMD 5 years to develop a processor that used the same technology as Transmeta has now. Of course, that's no reason to believe that Transmeta will succeed in making competitive processors.
  • Moderators need to get a grip!

    This is about CPUs, just like this Transmeta article!

  • Quote:

    Both Intel, which this month rocked markets when it forecast third-quarter sales below Wall Street's expectations, and AMD use the same chip architecture, called X-86, which is almost 25 years old.

    Ditzel said, however, Transmeta's strategy was to go after the ``two very big niche markets'' of chips for notebooks and Internet mobile devices and that Intel and AMD, strong in chips for desktops and servers, should not be worried about Transmeta.

    I have yet to see a product out there that uses a processor from Transmeta. Aside from that, this is just good old FUD-spewing by the boys who made Crusoe. Both Intel (with their P6 core) and AMD (since the K6 days) have stopped executing x86 instructions directly. They do hardware realtime translation of x86 instructions. I'm going to guess that Crusoe does this as well, but partially in software (much like the first PPC-based Macs).

    I have yet to see any benchmarks on battery life or processor performance either. I don't care if the battery on my Crusoe-based notebook lasts 1hr more than my Intel-based Thinkpad, if the bloody thing runs at 486-speeds. To substantiate the claim, I would at least like to see performance benchmarks!

  • Why are they always bragging about how they have software that does many of the things that hardware normally does? I like software and all, but like any engineer, I realize that hardware has the ability to do things faster and better in some cases. I know we all don't want to render Quake 3 with out our video cards!!!

    Is there someting that I don't get here, have they made their software tools faster than their respective hardware tools??
  • by Pink Daisy ( 212796 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:08AM (#752977) Homepage
    That's silly. Transmeta only has a five year lead if Intel or AMD wanted to copy them. In terms of high performance processors, the x86 giants have the lead.

    This is like me claiming I have a three year lead in a computer engineering degree over a physics major... so what? Transmeta is just trolling, and I'm sure their competitors will continue to ignore them most of the time, as well they should.

  • Most PR stunts like this are done because:

    a) They're looking for more funding from VC.

    b) They're going to make an IPO soon, so they are trying to get their name out into the investment community.

    c) They want to boost consumer opinion of their product (or non-product, as the case may be).

    d) They are trying to intimidate another company (e.g., AMD) into working out some sort of deal behind the scenes (which we know nothing about)...

    I'm still waiting to see a Crusoe chip; if it's everything they say it is, then Transmeta can crow all they want.


    Spindletop Blackbird, the GNU/Linux Cube.
  • Isnt transmeta 5 years old though. Didnt they spend that long developing the Crusoe technology?
  • Even if transmeta really were five years ahead of Intel and AMD (which I doubt), what would that have to do with Transmeta's chronological age?
  • a company can have premium and common stock. INTL is premium, INTC is common.
  • After all, Transmeta itself is not five years old

    From their own homepage: Founded in 1995 []

    2000-1995 = 5 years (okay, so maybe 4.5 or something), so what are you talking about? Maybe it's that Pentium rounding problem again...

  • It seems Slapmeat and Co. doesn't like posts that relate to the story at hand, since this same post, earlier [] was modded down to offtopic and -1.

    Sun rises with new generation of servers and introduces the UltraSPARC III Wednesday []


  • This article seems to assume that Intel and AMD would WANT to copy the Transmeta design. I don't really see it though. I can claim that I've created a peanut butter that's so sophisticated it would take Skippy and Jif 10 years to develop a peanut butter that is as sophisticated as mine. I mean, sure, it TASTES like regular peanut butter, looks like it, costs just as much to make but on the moleculer level my peanut butter is doing something so futuristic it'll take a decade to replicate it!!

    The fact is, Crusoe and the rest of the Transmeta chips may or may not live up to their expectations. For Intel and AMD to try to close this "5 year gap" supposedly created, they would need a desire to try. Right now I don't see this happening.

    "You'll die up there son, just like I did!" - Abe Simpson
  • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:12AM (#752985) Homepage Journal
    They're stuck using other people's fabs so they definitely are behind the ball there (both in cost/profitability/yield and silicon performance - they have to use standard processes they can't tweak too much).

    On the other hand they have a chip design with a billion gated clocks - not something you can do to an existing design overnight (except at a very gross level) - so in the sense that it will take one design cycle for the big guys to be doing what they are

    On the other hand all it takes is another small startup to get an async logic x86 clone to market - for those who don't know asynchronous logic has held a promise or lower power, faster design for years - but the CAD tools don't support it - a number of async designs have been done including Amulet (an async ARM).

    Async CPUs are in effect clockless - everything internal is self timed, nets only switch when they need to saving power and, in effect self-clock-chipping :-)

  • They're combining several old ideas using new technologies in new (probably patented) ways.

    They're taking the idea of microcode, but making it micro-software-code instead (made that up :-), they're actually implementing something resembling a VLIW processor (not done "successfully" ... market-wise ... before) and they're strapping the whole thing together with a piece of BIOS-type software that translates from one instruction set to their own on the fly.

    This is quite advanced, even if the R&D and ideas aren't new.
  • 5 years, that's all they've got,
    5 years, and it's quite a lot,
    my pc howls like a banshee,
    it's got no fans to spare,
    my case is like a warehouse,
    there's just no room in there.

    5 years, that's all they need
    before my toaster starts talking
    and my cellphone can read
    5 years, that's all they've got
    before I stop buying hardware
    and start growing pot.

  • Anyone remember microcode?

    Um .... yeah the pentium in my computer is full of it .... while the bulk of modern x86 instructions are executed risc-like both Pentium and AMD chips still contain large amounts of uCode to handle the hokey x86 interrupt/tasking/exceptions/etc model (they even have special hardware to load uCode patches at reset time from the BIOS)

  • I actually thought about this a while ago when I had a beta Katmai (P3) chip from Intel, and when I found a problem with one of the instructions they sent me a zip file with an executable and a datafile which re-programmed the chip to work around the problem I was having. I never investigated it further to see how much is possible to change...
  • I got a chance to a play with a Sony picturebook with a Crusoe. You could switch between low watt 300mhz battery extended and 600mhz high performance. The utility for this was the same as the utility on Sony notebooks to switch between speed settings for the Intel Speedstep processors. At 300mhz some things were a bit sluggish (not that an Intel or AMD proc at 300 wouldn't be as well for video editing). At 600mhz it operated fine. We were taking pictures, hooking up through a IEEE1394 network interface and other fun stuff. It ran fine for more than two hours on battery. At that point it had about half a charge left by the software monitor and I wasn't aware of how much charge was there prior to our playing.
  • by jjr ( 6873 )
    Once something has been done would it take you as the creator took to create it. It really depends. Would take Intel or AMD 5 years to create a "clean room" of transmeta's code morphing technology? I would think it would take them less time maybe 2 years most 3. But you never know. It could be so complicated that it will take 5 years to recreate.
  • No, hardware is only faster than software at doing simple things. CPUs are built (mostly) out of transistors and the more raw output you can produce with the least transistors, the better off you are (usually). That said, RISC systems were designed because some smart engineers realised that they could pull off higher CPU speeds if they simplified CPU design and put the onus on the compiler to generate complex code, instead of using a complex chip.

    Transmeta has just done something similar -- put the onus on the translation software to optimise a given program in a given instruction set for their CPU.

    The problem is that the big guys (Intel and AMD) are already doing this in hardware ... and the move to software is a good idea, but can be emulated quite quickly with enough programmers. That is, AMD or Intel just has to take their translation hardware and write code that does the same thing (if they wanted to do it).

  • True--most finance types probably wouldn't know Alpha from UltraSPARC; they just know that one is made by Compaq and the other by Sun. They probably won't care about the reality; they're just interested in the troll.

  • Yeah, but it can emulate virtually any chip that's five years behind. And if intel changes its architecture, Transmeta won't have to do as much to catch up...?
  • by eAndroid ( 71215 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:21AM (#752995) Homepage
    Me: Ok, so you are 5 years ahead of Intel, right?

    Transm: Yes, that's right. And AMD.

    Me: But this technology, you've only been working on it for less than 5 years.

    Transm: Correct. We were ahead even then.

    Me: Ok, so Intel decided that want to be like you tommorow, it is still going to take then 5 years just to get to the point you are at right now?

    Transm: yes.

    Me: What makes you so great?

    Transm: Linus Torvalds. He made linux in less than 5 years, too.

    Me: No no no. Linus only makes you famous.

    Transm: Well, I don't see Linux Torvalds working for Intel, do I??

    Me: Or AMD. That's not the point. I don't see why Intel is going to take longer than you to do something when they are bigger.

    Transm: Ok, five years is a long time. Doesn't that impress you??

    Me: No! It doesn't matter if you are lying!

    Transm: What?? We really do have Linux Torvalds! That is not a lie!
  • You're an Anonymous Coward so I'm not sure whether you'll ever read this. However, I thought I was being stupid too, but please take the time to actually look at the article:
    ...industry giants Intel (NasdaqNM:INTL - news)...

    So, I thought they must be stupid or something? But it seems to be the difference between Common and Premium stock...
  • yeah, they've been in stealth mode for a while. that is why they were so hyped - what the frick were these guys doing kooked up for 5 years? anyways, i'm not sure if ditzel's claim is correct, but maybe he knows something we don't (ie internal designs for next-gen chip)??
  • This might be the right way to go. they can allways adopt the best/newest tricks to their coredesign, no need to worry about "legacy" instruction sets in silicon.
  • Seriously, these Transmeta chips probably perform only about as good as a PII-333. Sure, they're ahead in powersaving, but do any of us except for the laptop users care? Personally, I think SpeedStep was a great move for Intel's mobile P3; who wants to run at 700MHz when you can only do so for less than two hours off the battery?

    Transmeta seems to be succumbing to the same thing AMD succumbs to: marketing arrogance. Remember those claims by AMD that the Athlon was faster? And remember how they were shot down when it was found that a similarly clocked P3 could perform better in high-demand applications? Sure was a wake-up call to AMD's marketing team; they couldn't use faster performance in their ads 'cause it just wasn't true.

    Also, who the hell names these add-on instruction sets? At least Intel uses some variety in names, but "3d-Now!" and "Power-Now!" just seem to reflect the "instant gratification, damnit!" mentality of the general AMD user base. These names sound more like ransom demands from a terrorist faction, which I'm starting to believe is what AMD is quickly becoming.

  • Yeah but sun sells closed hardware and software therefor making it evil to the zealot community. Notice how they skipped right over the story about hotmail switching to win2k.
  • by 2Bits ( 167227 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:27AM (#753001)
    Well, this sounds more like a strategy to create buzzes for their up-coming IPO than anything. The press release does not tell anything, but just threw in a catchy statement like that so that everyone talks about it.

    We all know the marketing strategy before an IPO:

    • Create partnership/alliance, make press release. There should be at least two per months, and at least one per week 3 months before the IPO, to keep up the momentum.
    • Drop little information to some unsuspecting journalist to get a coverage. Preferably one coverage per week, to keep up the momentum.
    • Drop a little other information to yet other journalist to get another coverage, so that the journalists compete among themselves. This creates an atmosphere that the company is really hot, and is on something really big, that's why every journalist is trying to get the scoop. A way to generate buzz and keep up the momentum.
    • CEO, VP, ... accept interviews, alternating among the high ranking officers in the company, to give interest to different groups of people: investment analyst, investors, developers, ... And these interviews should happen every week six months before the IPO, to keep up the momentum.
    • Make a press release even if nothing happens, just to keep the steam up.
    • Make more press releases, and drop in a few bombs to get noticed. To keep up the momentum.

    Everything is about to generate buzzes and keep up the momentum.

    So, are you ready to buy machines with Crusoe chip, and throw in your money to invest in the company?

    No? How come?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    To anyone that doesn't think a company can have a 5 year lead look at the amiga.. Crazy technology before anyone else about 5 years ahead of the pc(wintel) world... But this also shows that if u can't market it u can make money with it! SO LEADS DON'T MATTER!

    - Random Note

    Just remember whoever thought up the idea of selling sunglasses to the blind was a freakin marketing GOD!
  • Actually more like AMD having the Athlon when chipzilla released Pentium 90...
  • Given that Transmeta was founded in 1995, by what logic do you deduce that they're less than 5 years old?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:31AM (#753005)
    The quote this whole thing's based on says, ``For them to catch up, they would also need a software based approach. That means they would have to start from scratch and from my 20 years of experience, it would take at least five years to get a new microprocessor out the door."

    Is anybody here seriously suggesting he is wrong to say that it would take five years to start from scratch designing a chip - especially when that's how long it took Transmeta? That's where the five years come from and I would have thought that's accurate. People have had decades to copy Intels X86 architecture (and several years for the Pentium and most of its guises) so if it was that easy there would be more alternatives.

    Which means the question is the first point: do Intel/AMD/ARM etc have to use a design which implements software? Well, that I don't know. But considering the problems and delays Intel has had bringing the Pentium 4 to market there is evidence to say he might be right.

    In the context of promoting his own company he's not making unreasonable assumptions.
  • by pazustep ( 236851 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:31AM (#753006)

    On the other hand, it would be nice to market a "student version" of Crusoe.

    Students could design their own architecture, up to the instruction set, including a MyArch -> Crusoe instruction translator, and then let Crusoe execute their code.

    Also interesting would be a console emulator (SNES!) designed to run into Crusoe.

  • ...that they feel their technology is that far ahead of their competitor's technology...

    They aren't saying they know what the technology will be in five years...
  • They don't see an upper MHz limit for Crusoe. The aim is to go for a simple architecture which produces little heat for the performance, and then up the performance. If they stay in business, Moore should be on their side. Right now they cannot get the performance they want though.

    I think SMP would be hard. But I could be wrong.

    They can do other instruction sets. Eventually they would like to do multiple instruction sets in parallel. (Think moving the JVM into the machine.) However they will likely have a harder time squeezing performance out of RISC than CISC.

    I don't know the status of 64-bit. Internally their chip is 128 bit though, so it should be doable. But I think they prefer AMD's approach. (I think that Microsoft will discover the hard way that AMD left them an upgrade path they can live with while Intel did not - the barrier to entry that Microsoft erected is working against IA64 now.)

    I believe that Transmeta will do something extreme. If they can hang on, they have enormous potential. But if they cannot survive this critical period, they will leave a hole in the ground.

    Oh, the one technical detail everyone seems to ignore. There have been many micro-controller architectures. But x86 was not intended to be one and is rather difficult to emulate. They claim to have real breakthroughs and I believe them.

  • INTL is Inter-Tel Inc. Found it on yahoo [].

    INTC is Intel [].

  • Fujitsu and Sony are already on, Hitachi and NEC are expected...but this chip only has an edge in a limited market (laptops and assorted PDAs). Plus they outsource the manufacture of the chips to IBM. The cynic in me would say this is another case of CEO's buffing the company image before their IPO...

    "Transmeta, which filed in mid-August for an initial public offering, is gaining in stature within the industry and on Wall Street..."

    They do have Linus Torvalds [] onboard and Paul Allen's [] cash behind them, but that doesn't mean you have half a decade lead time over Intel or AMD. Bottom line: the market for PDAs and laptops is small. Their production set up is small. If the Suits at Intel or AMD decide to throw money at the problem, they could play catch-up faster than you might think.
  • by zyqqh ( 137965 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:38AM (#753011)
    Intel is INTC, not INTL. Here's the corrected link: INTC []
  • >True--most finance types probably wouldn't know Alpha from UltraSPARC;

    you mean *day-trader* types. finance types don't usually deal with this stuff in that much detail. they're more interested in management strategy, cash flow, M&A, and other capital-investment-type information.

    (granted, most finance-types wouldn't know either, but they also wouldn't ever have to deal with that stuff.)

  • Until people are buying their chips, they have a lead over NOONE. Maybe Transmeta forgot, along with the rest of the internet IPO's, that profit is important and not 'potential growth'.


    There are two reasons why Slashdot writes about this crap:

    1) It is kinda neat how they solved the heat issues of such an old legacy design as the x86. This only needs to be reported ONCE.

    2) Linus works for them. How many times has Slashdot run an article with the words Linux, Transmeta, and Embedded mentioned?

    Also, I find it ironic that Slashdot, whose bias towards towards Linux is well known, has the follow to say about Transmetas claim:

    "once an idea is public, it is a lot easier to copy."

    Finally explains, once and for all, exactly why Slashdot is against software patents.

    Draw your own conclusions.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    thats right when her nose started running i knew the bitch was full

    the slashdot killah

  • Okay, I'm sorry. So it is really them being stupid, not me :-)
    Why don't you go create yourself an account so your posts start at karma 1? I usually don't even read ACs, let alone reply. It was just because I had a question and you had an interesting point that I replied.

    And btw, thanks for answering my question
  • Since the rate of development of technology is so rapid, its very difficult to tell where it'll be in 5 years. Having a mystical, magical chip that doubles battery duration and what not may very well not be 5 years away, rather one, or it may be 10 (though unlikely) The point I am trying to make is they may have well have said 'We're a bagillion years ahead.' --- its all still meaningless... and until I see numerous OTHER companies (its very easy to gloat about your own product) say it... [or see it for myself] --- then I will just ignore their boasts as just that. Thats just my opinion, I could be wrong...
  • IIRC AMD is already in cahoots with Transmeta to make lower power comsumption CPUs. From what I read, AMD wasn't all that impressed with marginal gain.

    Chief Frog Inspector
  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @08:45AM (#753018) Homepage Journal
    Transmeta's design, while not revolutionary (IBM has been doing microcode on their mainframe processors for decades) is something new in the microcomputer space. However, consumers typically don't buy CPU's for their design -- they buy strictly on price/performance. This is why AMD is currently slaughtering Intel at the low end: even though their chips are just imitations of Intel's, their process and scale are set up so that they can deliver large yields at low prices.

    Transmeta can win on price/performance if it can get good production yields.

    The real test will be on 64-bit, though: when Intel finally releases the Itanium, how fast will Transmeta be able to re-code its magical morpho-chip to the IA-64 instruction set? If they can do it quickly, they'll have a production Itanium-compatible chip on the market with a significantly lower R&D cost, because the hardware part of the chip is already paid for. Intel will have to charge a super-premium for Itanium, because of all the zillions they spent building it. If Transmeta can do a software-only upgrade to the Crusoe to make it Itanium-compatible, they'll be able to sell it at less than half of what Intel will be charging. If they can do that, they've got it made -- and they will indeed be five years ahead of Intel.
  • Like I said, Slapmeat rejected a story about Sun's new servers and CPUs coming out on Wednesday:
    • 2000-09-26 16:57:03 Sun rises with new generation of servers (articles,news) (rejected)

    God forbid you should mention CPUs in a CPU-oriented thread!

  • AMD or Intel just has to take their translation hardware and write code that does the same thing (if they wanted to do it). Not the same thing. Hardware does one thing, fast; software can be more flexible. Transmeta's does lots of things that hardware cannot - branch probability marking, incremental compilation, etc.
  • As Microsoft, Oracle and many other very, very rich companies have proved, being first does not exactly guarantee success. In fact, it's usually the second or third entries into a market that end up with the motherlode of the market share. Should be fun to watch though....


  • I have to agree with you on this one Lucas, looks
    more like a PR move than anything.

    My big problem with it is that they chose such a
    stupid time frame to claim that they were ahead
    by and provided nothing but their own word
    as evidence that they were ahead.

    Perhaps if I really felt motivated to find out
    about them beyond that single article, I might
    just find that, but their initial statement has
    turned me off toward them in general.

    Anyone who would make outrageous claims to bolster
    business should've gotten into disk jockeying
    or rock stardom, because that's where
    that sort of PR belongs.

    I'm just mean today, I guess... oh well!

  • Really, I know some people have been dissing Transmeta (TMTA in October, when they IPO) for:
    1. running slower than Intel
    2. doing PR prior to the IPO

    But. It doesn't matter.

    Yes, you read that correctly. Noone gives a frog's hind quarters about the speed anymore, it's HOW LONG IS THE BATTERY LIFE. And they can deliver substantial gains on battery life for laptops and webpads, so they are 5 years ahead.

    And they're not that slow either, pretty close in speed and they are shipping in quantity to a large number of disparate vendors.

    Besides, most of us just care about Bandwidth, Batteries, Butting Up Against Bill And Beating Him Silly. And on all three they win round one - better than the US Govt, that's for sure!

  • Transmeta has chips that are kinda slow. But if their burn rate doesn't exceed the speed at which VCs throw money at them, their CPUs will get faster.

    SMP's hard, but then I'm an idiot, so what do I know.

    Transmeta might try other instruction sets. But they might not work very well.

    I have no idea what I'm talking about now, but I'll throw in the term "64-bit" 'cause it makes me look 1337. Oh, BTW, Intel and AMD don't get along. MS will probably make an OS compatible with at least one of them. But I might be wrong and MS might start selling bedwarmers for elderly people. Mmm... bedwarmers.

    I believe that Transmeta might make lots of money, but not if they go bankrupt.

    Guess what? x86 wasn't a MPU architecture - it was a recipe for lasagna. That makes it hard for Transmeta to emulate. But hey, they say they've got their act together, know where their towels are, and are going to make some insanely great lasagna.

    But then, I might be wrong.

  • by brokeninside ( 34168 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @09:12AM (#753031)
    Transmeta's Ditzel said in fairly unequivocal words why Transmeta had a five year head start:
    ``For them to catch up, they would also need a software based approach. That means they would have to start from scratch and from my 20 years of experience, it would take at least five years to get a new microprocessor out the door,'' David Ditzel said in an interview.

    Now to understand the context, keep in mind that Transmeta does not see itself as a head to head competitor with Intel or AMD in the x86 market. Transmeta is really going after the embedded space and the mobile computing space. While notebook manufacturers are intending to implement Crusoe, Transmeta is really targeting the Palm sized computers, the mobile phones, etc.

    What Ditzel is saying then is that Transmeta has a Quantum leap on AMD and Intel in this area. Transmeta's technology allows them to shave off 1/4 to 1/3 of the transistors needed for a CPU. If, and this is a big if, Transmeta's technology scales down (not up) they have the potential to be the embedded king of the processor because, in theory, the chips of the competition will always be more complicated.

    Now, I don't know if Ditzel is right on this. Intel's StrongARM looks mighty fine in comparrison. I'm still waiting for Rebel (formerly Corel) to come out with a poratable Netwinder around the StrongARM. The Netwinder desktop runs a nice little Linux desktop class machine on 15 Watts. That's less juice than some x86 CPUs alone (let alone the hard drive, the fan, etc.). And of course if Palm does move to the StrongARM as they are rumored to be doing, it will get very interesting....

    I'm not counting Transmeta out, just not holding my breath for them to achieve world domination. It seems like they've got a decent product and given the slow acceptance of non x86 CPU's, they might have a good shot at gaining enough marketshare to make some money.

    have a day,


  • Yes, but, Athlon wins in the only benchmark that matters [] so who cares that they're (marginally) behind in the 'OfficeBench' and 'SysMark' tests? Besides, there -is- no comparably clocked PIII when weighed against the latest Athlon...
    Anway, the Athlon is faster at the same CPU speed on some benchmarks, not others, but it's a close race either way there. Athlon is -still- (or 'again') the fastest PC processor out there because the 10% lead of 1.1GhZ vs. Intel's 'measly' 1.0GhZ is bigger than the the 2-5% differences in those benchmarks that AMD does lose on.
    (Of course, personally, I'm looking at the price/performance ratios and the Thunderbird-850 for my next upgrade. I'll get a GhZ+ machine when my company agrees to buy one for my desktop at work or when the price comes down from the stratosphere. :))
    An-yway, it's all shameless muscle-flexing, but I just wanted to point out that I don't think AMD was ever 'lying' in their advertising.

  • This is all under the assumption that AMD and Intel haven't got any secret dark projects that they are hiding from the media. Just because Transmeta has been whored around by the techworld (primarily slashdot) doesn't mean that the bigger companies (the man) are doing nothing new and unique. This is to be expected from slashdot, though, because if you follow the money, you'll probably find out a lot of the higher ups in VA are going to invest in Transmeta.

    Oh, freedom and software? I'm sorry, it's not about that anymore :) It's about money. If you still think it's about freedom, leave the 90's, and join us in 2000. (or support Debian)

  • If you are that annoyed by Slashdot, then I must ask: Why are you still here?

    Go away. Slashdot isn't yours. It has no responsibility to you. The creators of Slashdot don't care about you, or your opinions. If you really want something better, go find it or start it yourself. But by clogging up story threads with crap like this, you're only making yourself look silly.

    you may quote me
  • Digital is fabless

    I could have sworn that as part of the Intel vs. Digital lawsuit that Digital sold their fab to Intel. Perhaps, Compaq is now fabless, but I don't believe Samsung is.

    have a day,


  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @09:29AM (#753039)
    This is a luidicrous statement. No technology is that much ahead.

    How about garbage collected languages? It took thirty years before they became mainstream (Java). What about Smalltalk? It was developed in the mid 1970s, and is still ahead of C++ in some ways. What about vector processing (i.e. SIMD)? It was a supercomputer feature over twenty years ago, and yet it only starting showing up in commodity CPUs in the mid 1990s. What about concurrent object-oriented languages? Even C++ doesn't have native concurrency, yet Simula did in the 60s. And so on and so on. If you are simply a fanboy of whatever is marketed as current tech, then you have a narrow view.
  • that's right. microsoft wasn't the first to the market - it was apple or digital research or IBM, depending on which particular market you're referring to, and which version of history you believe.

    and transmeta's not the first to their market, either. they're following intel, AMD, motorola, etc into the processor fray with something new and different. they're not defining a new market so much as redefining an old one.

    of course, the point is moot if they can't deliver.
  • I agree with the other reply - this is the only post here that clarifies the article.
  • Let's get this straight.

    But I might be wrong and MS might start selling bedwarmers for elderly people. Mmm... bedwarmers.
    Are you sure this is really a good idea? Rich grandparents maybe?

  • Of course they got five years ahead in only four years - they're overclocked!
  • This post is five years ahead of the rest of you. This means that by the time you will be replying or modding this, it will already have lost my interest. Have a nice life.
  • by Wellspring ( 111524 ) on Tuesday September 26, 2000 @10:03AM (#753057)

    I think that Ditzel is saying that Intel can't do that in less than five years. The reason isn't technological-- it is procedural.

    Transmeta was starting from scratch with some of the masters of VLIW already on board. Intel will be starting with a legacy platform which they are trying to replace. The problem is that there are hundreds of people at Intel whose entire job is their current platform. Intel can do it, technologically, but it is difficult to convice the troops to march in a different direction. Such a radical shift for such a big company is quite rare. Intel might pull it off, but it will take time for management to realize that Transmeta's technology is worth the time and effort, and that they will need to change to make it work.

    Now that it has been done successfully already, it probably would only take a couple years to release a competing design. If they started today. Which they won't. If they are like the big companies I've seen, they'll form a project group and kick the idea around until they start losing market share. Then they'll go into panic mode and finish it.

    Someone once told me that technologically, you can do nearly anything. Most obstacles to advance are actually procedural. A big mass of people such as those at Intel is very hard to move into a new direction. And success and power such as theirs is hard to wager on a radically new approach. Five years, by that measure, is very reasonable.

  • Async does have major promise, especially for low-power. However, if you just sprinkle magic async dust over an existing chip design, you get a processor that is only as fast as its poorest transistor. Transmeta, which has a fraction of the transistors (and a head start on the software which could adapt more intelligently to the vagiaries of a clockless chip), would benefit far more from this transition than traditional x86 designs.

    In effect, you have parallel advances. There's fabrication technology, where the big guys have the advantage, but that's just a matter of money. There's sync/async, which hasn't been opened up yet. And there's software, where Transmeta does indeed have a head start of 5 years... minus however long intel/AMD have been running secret initiatives to do Transmeta-like tricks in software.
  • On the one hand, it tends to be easier to reimplement something that someone else figured out, which means that Intel/AMD/... ought to be able to replicate many of the Transmeta features more quickly since they can avoid some of the learning curve.

    On the other hand, Intel/AMD didn't hire the Rather Bright group of engineers of whom Linus Torvalds is merely one in a cast of dozens.

    On the gripping hand, Transmeta has obtained patents on many of the more interesting technologies that they developed in the process, thus meaning that Intel/AMD would need to work around them, which I expect is an underlying assumption in the assertion that it would take some years to replicate it all...

  • They're stuck using other people's fabs so they definitely are behind the ball there (both in cost/profitability/yield and silicon performance - they have to use standard processes they can't tweak too much).

    If the choose to use just IBM's fabs, they can tweak their design as much as they like. In face they can use copper interconnects, and all manner of things a start-up fab plant would just have to licence at prohibitavly high rates anyway.

    They may have access to better production fabs then AMD owns. The big downside is if they can't get enough productiong capicity from IBM (a success disaster), or if they can't find any place else to go after their existing contract runs out (far enough in the future that it is a non-problem for a while).

    On the other hand all it takes is another small startup to get an async logic x86 clone to market - for those who don't know asynchronous logic has held a promise or lower power, faster design for years

    Low noise too. Very helpful in DSP work (at least when the signals you want to process are in danger of being interfered with by the clock signal, or more importnantly the billion gates that are all ready to cycle with the clock). The comercialised Amulet has gotten a few wins in pagers (replacing the old CPU and some of the analog processing). Maybe it will hit cell phones next....

    Async CPUs are in effect clockless - everything internal is self timed, nets only switch when they need to saving power and, in effect self-clock-chipping :-)

    Actually much harder to "over clock" because every data line has an associsted "data ready" line (unless they use C-logic -- I forget how that works, but it uses two lines to transmit a bit and ready at the same time, but each line is both status and data). The ready lines are designed to take longer to change state then the data lines, and those are the things you would have to shorten (in all their milions) to "over clock". Of corse just making the CPUI colder and ramping the voltage a bit will make it "magically" run faster. So you still have that.

  • VLIW is pretty close to software based CPU functions. It essentially pumps out the out-of-order execution and completion units to software.

    Sure, Transmeta pushes out some more things out of CPU, but it's hard to argue it's a 5 year lead.
  • Speaking of runtime optimization... what ever happened to HP's Dynamo (I think that's what is was called). Run your executable, and it profiles it, and (supposedly) it runs them faster than before... wasn't that originally supposed to be a cross-platform tool (like FX!-32)?

    There was an article at Ars Technica [] a while back... Haven't heard much lately, though. It would be interesting to see what other efforts there are for code profiling/optimization in the same vein...
  • What is native concurrency?

    A language with concurrency as part of the language itself. That is, there are built-in constructs for managing applications that are divided into lots of concurrently executing parts, rather than simply using an external thread library and semaphore calls. Examples: Erlang, Concurrent ML, Occam.
  • However, consumers typically don't buy CPU's for their design -- they buy strictly on price/performance.

    They buy mostly on price. Nobody knows what performance means any more There are plenty of crazy fanboys who buy high-end processors for pr0n browsing and MP3 playing. An intelligent person needing to do web surfing and word processing would buy the lowest end CPU possible, because even a 200 MHz Pentium is more than enough in such cases (and you can't even buy such a "slow" CPU in 2000). Remember, only a few years ago developers were using 200 MHz Pentiums for software development and 3D modeling. Most people don't have good perspective on performance.
  • "As for marketing arrogance, Intel is just as guilty as ANY other major corporation - they all promise with world and rarely deliver."

    Well, at least Intel doesn't make insipid commercials just to appeal to the morons of society. Real computer users know to stay away from AMD and their "92.813% x86 compatibility" goal. In the computer world, you get what you pay for. If you seem to have struck a deal, you always end up paying for it because of some bug that the AMD designers could've avoided in the first place [].

  • I was referring to instruction set names, not the CPU names. Examples of instruction set names include: MMX, SIMD, Streaming SIMD (a clear improvement over the original), and SpeedStep. However, AMD seems to want everything -Now!(TM)
  • That's a very strange perspective.
    Intel has already developed a next-generation architecture-- IA64 -- so any statement that they can't develop a next-generation architecture is just plain wrong.

    Yes, I'm aware that Intel is having a horrible time delivering IA64-- but you can't question their commitment to IA-64, which I would have to call a "radical shift" from their previous approach.
  • The issues that I think would be there with SMP would involve synchronizing locks etc. They are trying to do a lot of out of order operations, falling back on careful code when their optimizations fail. That keeps their pipeline full. But to get to a safe lock they need to flush that to get to a state where they can. Which will lose performance.

  • One of the biggest barriers everyone is facing right now is having the chip melt. It is a constant battle.

    Transmeta is not facing that particular barrier. Plus their chip is simpler hence easier to iterate through generations.

    Therefore over time the performance gap should narrow and reverse, if only they can stay alive.


    PS This opinion is based on a co-worker's conversation with some key people at Transmeta last Feb.
  • and I suppose you thought the "flat police" commercial was tactful? How about that stupid Athlon commercial which had their claim of being faster? This is the claim which I challenge.
  • I beg to differ. You're not just using your computer to compile kernels all day, right? If you are, you're the biggest loser in computing history. Did the compilation test involve a CRC check? Because if it did, I'd like to see those results, since the Athlon is so x86-incompatible that some OEMs list a disclaimer with the Athlon systems.

    You're just too afraid to face the fact that the Athlon was outperformed by a lesser-clocked Intel chip. Did you read any of the other pages of that review? You were probably too afraid to do so, since you couldn't stand seeing a hardware review site trash talking der Fuhrer AMD GmbH. Take those blinders off your eyes, and rip that green swastika armband off of your khaki shirt.

  • If Transmeta can do a software-only upgrade to the Crusoe to make it Itanium-compatible, they'll be able to sell it at less than half of what Intel will be charging.


    The Code Morphing(TM) emulation technology used in Crusoe(TM) processors is designed to emulate CISC (complex instruction set computing) machines such as x86, 68k, and JVM. It's much harder to emulate RISC machines such as MIPS, Alpha, and PowerPC, let alone machines that are already VLIW like ia64.

    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! []
  • The fact is at no point in the comsumer hardware industry has anyone released a tech that was 5 years ahead of its time

    Hmmm...not sure where to begin with that one. I suspect you're just saying that because you want it to be true, but counterexamples are easy.
  • When my Palm III (to take a nice cache-less example) wants to read a word from RAM it asks for the address and then waits (I think) 3 clock cycles. If it read it any sooner, the memory chip might not be ready yet - the 0's don't change to 1's in a nice ideal square wave, they relax there exponentially, and if the processor reads something that's halfway from 0 to 1 who knows what it will think.

    Why 3 clock cycles? Because that's the worst case - if I have a relatively crappy RAM chip, and my battery is close to dead, and it happens to be a really hot day, that's how long it will take. But what if my processor watched the voltage carefully enough to know when the memory was ready? After all, if the voltage reaches 1 after two clock cycles, you know that's where it's supposed to be.

    And once you start thinking that way, why do you need a clock at all? You ask the memory for a value, and wait only long enough until it's ready; ask the addition ciruitry to add that number to register n, and wait only long enough until it's ready; ask the pipeline for your next instruction, etc. If async were a factory, instead of having some fixed-speed conveyer belt running through it, you just have individuals handing each other tasks, and a very careful setup so nobody starts to do anything until all the materials they need arrive at their station.

    This obviously takes some high-level wizardry to design. Instead of just doing the next step on the next digital tick of the clock, each part of the chip must make sophisticated analog judgements about when its input is ready and when it's possibly still just a glitch. But what you get is a chip that overclocks itself to exactly its own limits. You'd sell computers rated to "greater than xxx Mhz" instead of just "xxx Mhz", and cooling your computer would give you immediate speed improvements.

    Probably the first use for async is for extremely low power devices. If you just have a teeny little solar cell which delivers fluctuating power (or a heat-engine running off of daily temperature differences or body heat, or whatever), well, the chip will take as much power as it gets and just operate slower when the power drops. I am sure your sci-fi imagination can come up with possible applications.
  • For the record, the Linux Kernel Compilation Benchmark being 'the only test that matters' was a tongue in cheek remark. Next time I'll remember the smiley for the humor impaired; as for the rest of your 'argument':

    You invoked a fascist reference; you automatically lose. Go away Troll.

  • Ok, I'm game. List one piece of consumer computer
    hardware that has been released where competition
    to 5 years to catch up?

    1. Wave-table sound. Standard on the Amiga in 1985, but took until 1991 to be available on the PC (Gravis UltraSound).

    2. Hardware 3D transformation. Standard on the Playstation, released in 1994 in Japan, but took until 1999 to show up on the PC (Nvidia TNT).

    3. Color, handheld game system with ability to draw (flat shaded) polygons in hardware. First available in Atari Lynx, circa 1991. Still not available in other systems.
  • Do you really believe that the Lynx is more technologically advanced than the handhelds today?

    Did you ever go through the Lynx tech docs? It was miles ahead of the Game Boy and Game Gear, even ahead of the Game Boy Advance in many ways. So, yes :)

    The problem here is that I can come up with a dozen examples, and you'll discount them all because you're looking at the current PC video card and CPU markets, which are as cutthroat as you can get. Getting back to Transmeta, the catch is that in several years, CPU manufacturers may discover that a "code morphing" style of architecture is the way to go, because CPU architectures are too disparate and expensive to design. If that turns out to be the case, then Transmeta will have been way ahead of everyone.

    Back in the mid 1980s, IBM was ahead of everyone with the RISC processor based IBM PC RT. Acorn had their ARM, too. But look how long CISC hung on after that. It wasn't until Apple started using PowerPC chips in 1994 that RISC on the desktop became mainstream. It is possible that Transmeta is in the same boat that IBM was in 1985.
  • I wouldn't ever argue that hardware and/or software can't do certain things because there is a very fine line these days. When you look at the translation code and/or microcode in some CPUs, there _is no_ difference.

    At any rate, modern Intel/AMD CPUs are actually able to mark branch probabilities as I understand it -- and its not hard when you consider they already have R/W registers galore to work with. Why not store it in another? Read up on modern processor specs ... when you're done.

  • Actually, one of the things they'll be able to accomplish in the multi-CPU market is to hide the fact that there are multiple CPUs from the OS entirely. The software driving the CPUs can (probably) properly disperse the calculations among CPUs the same way it currently fills pipelines.

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel