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Rupert Goodwins' IDF Diary

Monday 22/08/2005 — Part IMull of Kintyre might have the mists rolling in from the sea, but SF has rapacious mountains of fog thundering across the city like a ghostly army overrunning an undefended village. It's unworldly.

Monday 22/08/2005 — Part I

Mull of Kintyre might have the mists rolling in from the sea, but SF has rapacious mountains of fog thundering across the city like a ghostly army overrunning an undefended village. It's unworldly. It's spine-tingling. It's rather damp.

It's also Day Zero, when Intel shepherds all the international journalists into a large room and gives them the pre-show briefing. This is good and bad. Good, in that we quickly get a feeling for the show's themes and remind ourselves who's who in the Intel pantheon. Bad in that the briefing goes on for many hours in a windowless box, we are gathered together from every time zone in the world and there is no coffee. As in, none. There are fizzy drinks, there are cookies and water, but every journalist from Totnes to Timbucktu knows that a hurricane of hot caffeine is the only guard against Powerpoint's own brand of brain-numbing fog.

The two true tests for that genuine Intel Day Zero experience thus come in short order: the first mention of Moore's Law (five minutes) and a man from Japan snoring loudly in the seat behind me (seven minutes).

Which is a shame, because a lot of what rolled in across the projector was good clean fun. Teraflop levels of performance on our desktops within a decade! No architectural limit before 4000 cores! Even things that can't cope with more than 64 cores — stand up and take a bow, Windows — can be spread across more with new miracle ingredient Virtualisation! What do you want to have a supercomputer on your desk for, if all they do is physics? Well, disbeliever, what do you think games are full of?

And so on, and so forth. Most interestingly in this section, we were whipped up into an ecstatic frenzy (even the Japanese behind me snorted in his sleep) over the Second Coming of the x86 Instruction Set. Legacy? Nonsense! We'll be doing that for many years to come. As John Crawford, creator of the 80386 said, "I don't mind having a rock around my neck as long as it's a gold rock". John Crawford is now the director of the Itanium Architecture — his thoughts on its rock-like properties were not mentioned.

We learned that Intel was having a big internal debate about modularisation, making complex things from preset libraries of designs, which makes things easier to build and test but loses flexibility. The company's also looking at stacking dies on top of each other to get more memory closer to the core.