Multimedia controller highlights at Hot Chips

Multimedia controller highlights at Hot Chips
Tom Foremski in San Jose The first multimedia controller with an on-chip Rambus interface, and a superscalar processor for a supercomputer design, were among the advanced chips announced at last week’s Hot Chips IX conference in the heart of Silicon Valley. The conference focused on such issues as multimedia processing and techniques for speeding up microprocessor performance. NEC described a 200MHz superscalar Risc microprocessor with a on-chip Rambus interface. The V830R is the first device to contain a Rambus interface and be capable of full screen, full motion MPEG-2 playback plus 3D graphics processing in real time. It is designed for use in consumer electronics products. Using Rambus DRAMs, it can achieve peak data transfer speeds of 600Mbyte/s. “Until now, the benefits of high speed processors have been restricted. Having Rambus technology on chip will provide the necessary high bandwidth to optimise the flow of data between memory and the microcontroller,” said George Wang, general manager for the NEC microcontroller business unit. In past years, Hot Chips was the preferred venue for announcing the latest microprocessors, with Intel launching its 486 and Pentium microprocessors, and Motorola introducing its 68040 microprocessor. However, Hot Chips now tends towards the research side of the chip business, this year reporting on the advances made in chip technologies within US research centres. One of the products described at Hot Chips was a specialised microprocessor developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a newly styled supercomputer designed to tackle the processing bottlenecks in current high end computer architectures. The MIT Multi-ALU Processor (MAP) has 5m transistors, three on-chip processing clusters and an integrated network router. It will be ready by the end of the first quarter of 1998, fabricated using a 0.5?m CMOS five metal layer process. The device will be used to build MIT’s M-Machine experimental supercomputer. Design software firm Cadence Design Systems helped produce the chip.”The complexity of the M-Machine architecture and the resulting MAP chip presented many technical challenges,” said Jim Douglas, vice president of professional services marketing for Cadence. Douglas said that Cadence gained valuable experience in system-on-a-chip design as a result of its work with MIT.


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