At the center of that green PCB is a tiny little processor with way too many cores. It’s the GA144 which was taken for a test-drive on a breadboard by [Andrew Back]. We saw a multi-core Kickstarter project last month. This will cost a lot less and get you more than twice the number of cores. But as was mentioned in the comments on that post, the drawback is the programming language. This chip’s IDE uses Forth.
There is a dev board available, but [Andrew] went instead with a QFN-to-Through-Hole adapter board which he hand soldered. Once he has access to the pins the chip can be programmed with an FTDI adapter which is compatible with the 1.8V logic levels. The provided Forth IDE (arrayForth) is a Windows only program but it does run under Wine. We followed the project through to see him twiddling I/O pins. But we still have trouble thinking of applications for it. In a world of complex and inexpensive FPGA chips, what would you use this type of processor for?
Even though dual, quad, and octo-core CPUs have been around for a while, it’s a far cry from truly massive parallel computing platforms. The chip manufacturer Adapteva is looking to put dozens of CPUs in a small package with their Parallella project. As a bonus, they’re looking for funding on Kickstarter, and plan to open source their 16 and 64-core CPUs after funding is complete.
The Parallella computer is based on the ARM architecture, and will be able to run Ubuntu with 1 Gig of RAM, a dual-core ARM A9 CPU, Ethernet, USB, and HDMI output. What makes the Parallella special is it’s Epiphany Multicore Accelerator – a coprocessor containing up to 64 parallel cores.
Adapteva is turning to Kickstarter for their Parallella computer to get the funding to take their Epiphany multicore daughterboard and shrink it down into a single chip. Once that’s complete, Adapteva will start shipping an ARM-powered Linux supercomputer that’s about the size of a credit card, or a Raspberry Pi under the new system of dev board measurements.
With any luck, the Parallella multicore computer will be available for $99, much less than a comparable x86 multicore computer. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what the Parallella can do in the future.