Itanic crushes Beeb micro in speed bake-off

And how stupid do they think we are?

IDF During his keynote, Intel's Mike Fister boasted about McKinley's great potential to crush rival RISC systems. And he had figures to prove it.

Fister unveiled benchmarks that showed Itanic roasting what he described as "one of our leading enterprise contenders", in the form of a BBC Acorn computer. In both I/O and practical web-surfing, the next-generation IA-64 processor bested what Fister described as "the plucky British 8-bit". The 6502-based micro lost out, in some cases by wide margins. Itanium, he predicted, "would render the BBC an also-ran in the data center. It's got a long way to fall," he said.

"And the BBC hasn't thought about scalability features, which have been built into IA-64 since day one," he added.

"And my god, look at those blocky graphics!"

Er, no. Fister didn't actually compare McKinley against a 20-year old 8-bit. He chose a slightly less old computer. But not by much.

You see, Fister was trying to prove that Itanium now has the horsepower to give fantastic price/performance against those RISC guys. Which with Intel's volumes, means it will eventually shuffle these guys to one side. So he targeted Sun. Only the Sun machine he chose to floor beneath a kaleidoscope of bursting benchmark bars has um, now been discontinued.

The Gigahertz McKinley was set head-to-head against an UltraSPARC IIi, the 400Mhz version. This was quite the rage in 1998, but has since been supplanted across almost all of Sun's range. Except the spooky afterlife where really old chips go to die, but yet live, and which used to be called "network appliances" ie, cheap routers, but is now more likely to be equally spooky new "blade systems". (This was't, we can now confirm, the cut-down IIIi version).

But it is a three-year old chip.

This howler went unnoticed by the heroic US press corps. Because the incriminating PowerPoints contained just two names "Intel" and "Sun", and an asterisk over "Sun" pointed to some fine print, which was too small to read from even the first couple of rows. So nobody read it.

If Sun was really smart, it would be distributing an "Itanic benchmark cockup" press release this morning. Because that's really what it is.

We began this show with a heavy heart, because we thought McKinley was getting its act together, and so we'd never again enjoy anything as enthralling as last year's "Itanic User Panel", which was the funniest event we've ever attended in a professional capacity. It was a laugh a minute, and the air bubbled with merriment throughout. (See our story "Do Not Feed, Poke Or Disturb The Itanic User".)

So we're pleased to see a tradition being established, and we can't wait for next year's Itanic Cockup™, at IDF in 2003. By then they'll be comparing it to motorized can openers. Or boasting that it does Pong "with almost no jerkiness", or that it can replicate the thought processes of "a single celled blatula", and still have "cycles to spare".

Oh, come on. ®

Bootnote: The successor to the BBC Acorn featured a processor designed from scratch, which took five man years to create. Five. ®