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Intel's IA64 EPIC like a snake swallowing a hamster

What's good for a goose may make a gander choke

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A senior architect said today that Merced may be pushed up the food chain because the possibilities to produce real silicon might well be remote. It would be a simplification, he said, while he was quaffing his jar of peanut better. HP's EPIC VLIW software, he said, "is somewhat like a snake swallowing a hamster". The architect was responding to our story earlier this week which talked about optimising processes on real Merced silicon. Intel has not yet told us whether or not Merced has taped out. The architect quoted this saying: "a good programmer can write machine code in any language". That aphorism, he maintained, should be put to an end. He said: "At some point, programmers will need to adopt more flexible ways of expressing their algorithms." He continued in the same vein, almost turning the concept of 64-bit chips and operating systems associated with it into a philosophical discussion. "It's very hard to assess whether EPIC is a botch or a bonus," he said. "I have a gut instinct that EPIC is slicing the problem on the wrong axis." He explained that by saying Intel chose to make its instruction bundle a unit of independence, which he described as "a typical American attitude". Instead, said the architect, it should have used clusters of instruction sets. He concluded: "EPIC is an LA sprawl with six lane freeways stretching as far as the eye can see and every family member has his own car (and never has to wait for another family member to return home). My intuition would have been more like a van pool and policies to convince people who frequently have intimate dealings to live in roughly the same part of town." This, we are given to understand, is an insider's statement on Intel's fab policies. ®

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