Feeds

ARM creators Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber

Part Two: the accidental chip

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Breakfast in America

The place was a revelation. As Furber recalls: “We went there expecting big shiny American office buildings with lots of glass windows, fancy copy machines… And what we found was… a bungalow in the suburbs… Yeah, they’d got some big equipment, but they were basically doing this on Apple IIs.”

Mensch assumed that Wilson and Furber turned down the new version of the 6502 because they were looking for a full 32-bit processor to compete with Apple’s plans for the 16-bit Apple IIgs. Mensch didn’t want to be rushed into 32-bit until he’d completed the current 24-bit project.

Roger Wilson and Steve Furber in the mid-1980s

Wilson and Furber in the mid-1980s

He says: “They didn't want to wait for me to start the 32-bit version so they left upset with my choice and decided that they could do the design themselves in Cambridge.”

What had decided them wasn’t being “upset” at Mensch’s reluctance. It was the encouragingly tiny scale of his globally successful operation. As Wilson tells it: “A couple of senior engineers, and a bunch of college kids… were designing this thing… We left that building utterly convinced that designing processors was simple.”

Simple? IBM’s own commercially unsuccessful first attempt at a Risc processor had taken months of instruction set simulation on heavy mainframes. Wilson, however, just plunged right in. Herman Hauser remembers: “Sophie did it all in her brain.”

It was Furber’s job to turn Wilson’s brainchild into something that could be taped out and sent off to the factory for fabrication. Once she’d thought out the instruction sets, “Steve then knocked things out”, she recalls.

Bill Mensch then and now. Source: Commodore.ca/WDC

Western Design Center's Bill Mensch then and now
Sources: Commodore.ca and WDC

“It turned out there is no magic," says Furber. "A microprocessor’s just a lump of logic, like everything else we'd designed. There are no formidable hurdles. The Risc idea was a good one, it made things much simpler. And 18 months later, after about 10 or 12 man years of work, we had a working ARM in our hands. Which probably surprised us as much as it surprised everybody else.”

New hybrid storage solutions

Next page: Call to ARMs

More from The Register

next story
Apple iPhone 6: Missing sapphire glass screen FAIL explained
They just cannae do it in time, says analyst
Quit drooling, fanbois - haven't you SEEN what the iPhone 6 costs?
How keen will buyers be when exposed to the real price?
Slap my Imp up: Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper
Monsters need to earn a living too
Amazon axes hated Fire Phone price: 99 pennies but a niche? Ain't none
Forgive the double negative but seriously, no one wants this mobe
Apple's big bang: iPhone 6, ANOTHER iPhone 6 Plus and WATCH OUT
Let's >sigh< see what Cupertino has been up to for the past year
The Apple Watch and CROTCH RUBBING. How are they related?
Plus: 'NostrilTime' wristjob vid action
Oh noes, fanbois! iPhone 6 Plus shipments 'DELAYED' in the UK
Is EMBIGGENED Apple mobile REALLY that popular?
Apple's SNEAKY plan: COPY ANDROID. Hello iPhone 6, Watch
Sizes, prices and all – but not for the wrist-o-puter
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.