Fork And Run: The Definitive Guide To Getting Started With Multiprocessing

Since the early 2000s, the CPU industry has shifted from raw clock speed to core counts. Pat Gelsinger famously took the stage in 2002 and gave the talk the industry needed, stating processors needed specialty silicon or multiple cores to reduce power requirements and spread heat. A few years later, the Core series was introduced with two or four-core configurations to compete with the AMD Athlon 64 x2.

Nowadays, we’re seeing heterogeneous chip designs with big and little cores, chiplets, and other crazy fabrication techniques that are fundamentally the same concept: spread the thermal load across multiple pieces of silicon. This writer is willing to put good money into betting that you’ll see consumer desktop machines with 32 physical cores in less than five years. It might be hard to believe, but a 2013 Intel Haswell i7 came with just four cores compared to the twenty you’ll get in an i7 today. Even an ESP32 has two cores with support in FreeRTOS for pinning tasks to different cores. With so many cores, how to even write software for that? What’s the difference between processes and threads? How does this all work in straight vanilla C98?

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