Transmeta chips to make air travel safer

Gosh, we never thought of that

San Jose Transmeta's forthcoming Crusoe low power chips could make transatlantic flights safer, says the company.

Transmeta's aim of producing notebooks with an eight hour battery life will allow jet-setters to cross the Atlantic and work all the way. When The Reg pointed out that you could do that already by plugging your existing notebook into the airplane's electrical system on most flights, company techies mumbled something about overheating wiring, electrical fires, planes falling out of the sky and general doom, death and destruction.

So what's so cool about Crusoe, apart from keeping you alive long enough to drink your duty frees?

Well, cool is one of the big deals, says Transmeta. In a graphic thermal imaging demonstration of a hapless mobile Pentium III alongside a Crusoe performing the same task, we saw the Intel part reach 122 degrees C and then die horribly (well, they did take its heatsink off, which hardly seems fair) while Crusoe kept its cool at a temperate 64 degrees and lived to fight another day.

We're not entirely convinced that this demonstration proves much beyond how taking the wheels off a car will seriously impact its 0-60 time, but the pictures were very colourful.

Transmeta's director of Low Power Programs, Marc Fleischmann, jetted in from Japan, where he had been admiring some prototype Crusoe notebooks, some of which he claimed were just one centimetre thick.


He gleefully pointed to some Intel figures (which Fred Pollack must now regret publishing) which illustrated that in heat terms, the 0.5 micron Pentium Pro reached 10 Watts a square centimetre - the same heat output as an electric hotplate -, while a processor built on a ten nanometre process would attain around 250 Watts per square centimetre - equivalent to the temperature found in the core of a nuclear reactor.

So having frightened the assembled company to death, Fleischmann continued by claiming that a Crusoe processor could run a soft DVD movie using the same power as a conventional CPU in a deep sleep state.

And in a statement strangely redolent of Chipzilla's protestations that current benchmarks weren't good enough to show how wonderful Rambus was, Transmeta's technical marketing director, Daniel McKenna, said that application benchmarks using accelerated scripts 'measure the wrong stuff' and were thus unfair to Crusoe.

The company had therefore come up with its own benchmarks which showed impressive power consumption figures, but these were only obtainable by using a heavily instrumented machine and McKenna said it would be extremely difficult - if not impossible - to run the same tests on an X86 notebook.

So there we have it - you can compare different Transmeta machines with each other, but you can't compare them with a conventional notebook, and that's official.

The assembled company was assured that the first Crusoe notebooks would be in the shops in time for Christmas. ®