Wednesday

Wednesday 23/04/2003There's always a period of confusion and misdirection when one regime gives way to another. Even when the changeover is expected and planned, nobody quite knows whether to do things the old way, or what's expected of the new -- just look at the transition between the Tudors and the Stuarts when Liz I pegged it and handed over the crown to Scottish Jimbo.

Wednesday 23/04/2003
There's always a period of confusion and misdirection when one regime gives way to another. Even when the changeover is expected and planned, nobody quite knows whether to do things the old way, or what's expected of the new -- just look at the transition between the Tudors and the Stuarts when Liz I pegged it and handed over the crown to Scottish Jimbo. Some of the same unsettling feelings are being induced in the introduction of 64-bit processors. The Itanium 2 is just starting to make an impression -- still far less than Intel would have you believe -- and AMD is finally coming clean with the launch of the AMD64 processors. How does Intel respond? It releases a Pentium emulator for the Itanium. I can make no sense of this whatsoever. First, the Itanium has a Pentium inside it already. A real, made out of silicon, Pentium, there to provide compatibility. It's not very fast -- in fact, since I've seen no figures for it in the years that the Itanium has been nominally launched, I suspect it is as slow as a wet Wednesday afternoon. But Intel can make it faster. That's what Intel does. Writing a software emulator is just plain perverse. Software emulators are for people who can't afford silicon, or who don't have the rights to make the hardware, or who absolutely must have compatibility and there's no other way. That's why Transmeta does it: the talk about performance gains and power savings haven't cut much ice. So why? Is Intel about to drop the hardware aspect of the Itanium's 32-bit compatibility? Is it about to launch a much better 32-64 chip for the desktop (the much rumoured Yamhill) and this is a stopgap? I'm going back to my Z80 until things settle down. Let me know when sanity returns.

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