Hackaday had an amazing opportunity to sit down with [Ivan Godard] who discussed the Mill CPU development which his company — Out of the Box Computing — has been working on for about a decade. The driving force behind Mill development is that optimizations to existing architectures can only get you so far. At some point you need to come up with a new processor that builds on success and failure of its predecessors.
Ivan’s team has put out several lecture videos linked from their site that dig really deep into the inner workings that give Mill an advantage over currently available chips. We covered one of them recently which prompted [Ivan] to reach out to us. But what if you aren’t working on your advanced degree in semiconductor design? Our interview certainly isn’t for the laymen, but any engineering enthusiast should find this a refreshing and delightful conversation. After the jump you can see the first two installments of the four part interview.
If you don’t want to take the plunge on watching the whole thing, start with this greatest hits clip from the interview. It’s around eight minutes and covers three questions. The first is a discussion on how Mill uses and budgets power in a way that mimics DSP chips but still offers the versatility of a traditional processor. The next snippet is a discussion of the usefulness of Mill for things like cryptanalysis. [Ivan] explains that when the crypo algorithm is known, an ASIC will outperform Mill. When tasked with testing to discover patterns which may be used for cracking crypto, though, Mill performs remarkably well. And the final segment of the “greatest hits” reel covers a discussion of the automated build tools the team developed which will dynamically add operations to the Mill. Within about twenty minutes you can see that operation in action via the simulator.
Don’t stop with this tasty teaser or you’ll miss an epic discussion. In fact, the second clip of the four-part interview (don’t worry, they’re all pretty short) includes one of the greatest quotes we’ve heard. [Ivan] is discussing the difference between a software startup and a company that is designing a new processor architecture. He jokes that software companies can be founded with a couple of “hot” guys and a wad of cash, but: “Heavy semi doesn’t work like that. Heavy semi is like steel mills and railroads.” Classic!
Work your way through these interviews today. We’ll be posting a follow-up with the other two parts tomorrow.