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July 5, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

It always seemed strange that no-one had designed a RISC processor with an instruction set tailored to replicate those of complex instruction set processors when used in combination – so as to create a part that would run MS-DOS or 68000 code blindingly fast – and now a Champaign, Illinois-based start-up, Teraplex Inc, has come up with something very much along those lines. Its new architecture takes the concepts of reduced instruction set a stage further to create an extremely simple, super-fast Minimum Instruction Set Computer – MISC architecture, and it has licensed the design to Atmel Corp of San Jose, California for fabrication as a chip. The MISC architecture strips down the number of instructions to fewer than 20, according to a Teraplex spokesman, using long instruction words to maximise bus efficiency, and relies on carefully-written compiler technology to use the thing efficiently. The instructions included are mostly computational operations deemed absolutely necessary, and are known as atomic instructions, which can be combined to replicate the same functionality of complex or reduced instruction architectures. In this way, Teraplex claims that it can provide binary compatibility with the software of other architectures, and it has already implemented the Intel iAPX-86 set, claiming that MS-DOS software ran at an average of five to six times faster on the processor than on an 80386, with a six times memory expansion. Running at 62.5MHz, the 32-bit CMOS processor is claimed to run at 65 MIPS. Use of such simple architecture means that many fewer devices need to be crammed onto the chip, which in turn means conservative process technology can be used, making very high clock speeds possible. The first commercial version is due in the second quarter of 1991, with board level products and eventually workstations using a parallel implementation to follow. The first operating system is expected to be Unix System V.4. The design work on the MISC technology grew out of a 10-year-old reseach programme carried out by Jeff Glickman at the Univesity of Illinois. Teraplex is a subsidiary of computer think tank Advanced Analytics Corp, set up to commercialise RISC, and is funded by private investors and the State of Illinois. It is seeking further licensing agreements with semiconductor and computer manufacturers looking to fabricate the chip. Start-up Atmel is the firm that bought Honeywell Inc’s Solid State Electronic Components arm in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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