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flat assembler > Non-x86 architectures > ibm "cell" processor

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tom tobias



Joined: 09 Sep 2003
Posts: 1318
Location: usa
ibm "cell" processor
http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,119602,00.asp
Lots of news articles yesterday about the Sony/Toshiba/IBM cpu called "cell", which is supposed to contain several (?ten) modules each capable of executing instructions concurrently. No idea how the cpu is programmed. No info to my knowledge, is available about the architecture, instruction set, and scheduling/memory algorithms.
Supposed to be a 64 bit cpu running at 4 ghz.
I still remember Steve Jobs at a forum in 1982 grinning as he pointed to the 68020 that was going to "smoke" the 80286 Embarassed regards, tom
Post 08 Feb 2005, 13:27
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kake_zinger



Joined: 15 Jul 2004
Posts: 51
Cell, finally a mature, modern and capable architecture
I am totally excited about the Cell. In short, 1 Cell CPU contains 8 execution elements each with 128 registers 128 bits each (!!!) and their own 256 KB locally addressable memory and one master processor element. All are interconnected together with a high speed bus. Sounds like a very interesting assembly programming project.

One computer could contain several Cell CPU's, with tens of execution elements in one box, the PS3 is rumored to have 4, that would mean 32 execution elements. Talk about parallel processing! 32 times 128 registers, woohoo! I'm going register mad!

If we're lucky, Cell could be The Thing what the computing world urgently needs. I wrote earlier about my disappointment to the new AMD64 platform and funnily enough it seems that Cell could very possibly be the real answer to my prayers. Very interesting, very promising. I've never owned a game console before but when PS3 comes out I guess I'll be buying at least one from sheer interest alone!

Incidentally, Slashdot run an article about it today

http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/cpu/cell-1.ars

Discussion at

http://games.slashdot.org/games/05/02/09/0214235.shtml?tid=137&tid=136&tid=126&tid=10
Post 09 Feb 2005, 17:03
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f0dder



Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Posts: 3175
Location: Denmark
Problem is, how will you utilize all those cells? Not every algorithm can be broken into parallel-running threads, and there's only "so many" things you need to have running at once anyway.

Another problem is memory/bus speeds - you'll definitely need some kind of architecture where each CPU (or cell) has it's own ram and bus, and some interconnect buses to access other CPU's (or cell's) memory.

But I guess an interesting application would be software-only rendering - today's GPUs are highly parallelized, so it's definitely possible to take advantage there. And while GPUs are becoming more flexible, they're still not at all-round CPU level...
Post 09 Feb 2005, 17:43
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kake_zinger



Joined: 15 Jul 2004
Posts: 51
From general personal computing point of view the SPE's are a godsend. Think, you can have 1 SPE to be permanently dedicated to network processing, 1 for sound, 1 for this 1 for that. No more time slicing and context switching.

What you're left with when all your necessary programs are running fully parallel in background you give to be parallelized with your Nr 1 foreground app, or give 1 SPE for each of your fg apps, or even time slice with many, context switching should be reasonably quick with 25 GB/s memory bandwidth.

The Cell could even herald a new age of Personal computing, think of it like C64 on steroids. In a Personal computer, all you need is one program running at the time, yet it can do much. Well, Cell can run 8 + main at the same time, real time parallel. Personally I'd be very interested to begin programming an asm coded OS for it, which would take into account the special features of the Cell and be geared towards Personal computing in the C64 sense.

We have Intel/AMD architecture already and there is absolutely no reason mimicking that or its capabilities, the Cell can do new things in different ways. The Cell is 8 way multiprocessing while Intel/AMD are only slowly reaching 2. And it can't be too expensive as the PS3 can't be too expensive, it's a game console after all.

New article describing the Cell closer

http://www.realworldtech.com/page.cfm?ArticleID=RWT021005084318
Post 11 Feb 2005, 21:01
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f0dder



Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Posts: 3175
Location: Denmark

Quote:

And it can't be too expensive as the PS3 can't be too expensive, it's a game console after all.


Both Sony and Microsoft are losing money on the console hardware, in order to put it in as many homes as possible, and making up for the money loss on the hardware by revenue from the games...
Post 12 Feb 2005, 13:42
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madmatt



Joined: 07 Oct 2003
Posts: 1037
Location: Michigan, USA
It is rumored that the PS3 will need an OS to program the thing, and of course the first choice is Linux. So if you know Linux programming, you should be able to program the PS3.
Post 13 Feb 2005, 07:10
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MCD



Joined: 21 Aug 2004
Posts: 604
Location: Germany
I wish I had a SDK for the PS3 with its genius cell processor. I would definitely start it. This would also be a good oportunity to introduce a new PC CPU standard, but everyone knows that people doesn't like to change their habits.
Post 02 Mar 2005, 12:28
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tom tobias



Joined: 09 Sep 2003
Posts: 1318
Location: usa

MCD wrote:
I wish I had a SDK for the PS3 with its genius cell processor. I would definitely start it. This would also be a good oportunity to introduce a new PC CPU standard, but everyone knows that people doesn't like to change their habits.


Sure, you hit the nail on the head. That is exactly what I was thinking on initiating this thread. The talent on this board, working with a cpu (x86) whose architecture and instruction set were already obsolete at the time of its introduction, a quarter century ago, could really generate some significant product, i.e. one capable of actually earning money, if some new cpu was adopted instead. SDK for the new IBM cpu, none exists, hmm. Who would use it? How about Japan? Do the Japanese have a BIG investment in this cpu??? YOU BET! What about China? Are they looking for an alternative to the domination by intel/msoft? You bet! But, what about OTHER architectures, even simpler than this IBM/Motorola behometh? I wonder if there might not be an even simpler cpu architecture, MUCH less expensive, which, when driven by tools based on assembly language instead of the silly C/Fortran/Ada group, provided a capability FROM THE END USER'S PERSPECTIVE, that met or exceeded the functionality of x86/windows/linux that we all rely upon now, to perform the most basic computing tasks. Smile
Post 03 Mar 2005, 10:49
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f0dder



Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Posts: 3175
Location: Denmark
If it was driven by assembly, you wouldn't get much success - unless it was able to interface with C and all other languages. Face it, assembly has become very very very small today.
Post 03 Mar 2005, 16:25
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fasm9



Joined: 19 Jun 2003
Posts: 439
when FASM would support ibm cell?

i would like to see it.
--
Smile
Post 07 Mar 2005, 11:07
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tom tobias



Joined: 09 Sep 2003
Posts: 1318
Location: usa
It is quite improbable that FASM would be redone for another cpu architecture. However, a MUCH simpler version of FASM (FASM-S, or FASM-LITE) COULD be modified to accommodate other cpu architectures, however, the first step in that direction would require a radical PRUNING of the thick undergrowth, leaving a much leaner, much less proficient tool, capable of assembly of only a minimum quantity of instructions.... Smile
Post 08 Mar 2005, 08:57
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pelaillo
Missing in inaction


Joined: 19 Jun 2003
Posts: 849
Location: Colombia
On the contrary, I think it is highly probable that FASM could be adapted to another CPUs.
Maintaining its design principles and syntax characteristics.
Maintaining most of the preprocessor and parser structures and algorithms.
Changing the way to encode instructions and to handle the new architecture's own characteristics.

Not a simple task but easier for FASM than for any other assembler/compiler...

Some of the compiling tasks could be parallelized, I wonder if FASM could benefit from this in order to become even faster: Imagine your sources being sliced and feeded into all ALUs to be processed together, producing object files to be linked by a final linear step... Very Happy
Post 08 Mar 2005, 12:56
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fasm9



Joined: 19 Jun 2003
Posts: 439
iirc, cell 10x ~ 20x faster than pentium4 3.x GHz.
more over, i heard it can run multiple oses at the same time.

hope that it wouldn't be another emotion engine(PS2).
--
Post 08 Mar 2005, 13:49
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tom tobias



Joined: 09 Sep 2003
Posts: 1318
Location: usa

pelaillo wrote:
On the contrary, I think it is highly probable that FASM could be adapted to another CPUs.....

Not a simple task but easier for FASM than for any other assembler/compiler...

Very Happy


Well, I think the primary problem is not one of the design of FASM, though, FASM is at present much too complex to be used as a starting point for a new assembler, but, rather, the fact that the cell cpu from IBM is so poorly documented. How, for example are these multiple execution units going to share memory, while running related tasks? This is a non-trivial issue for any assembler. tom
Post 08 Mar 2005, 18:15
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f0dder



Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Posts: 3175
Location: Denmark

Quote:

How, for example are these multiple execution units going to share memory, while running related tasks? This is a non-trivial issue for any assembler.


This is not as much an issue for the assembler as it is for the programmer, just like multithreading under existing OSes isn't an issue for assemblers.
Post 09 Mar 2005, 09:22
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madmatt



Joined: 07 Oct 2003
Posts: 1037
Location: Michigan, USA
I wonder when these console companies, SONY, Nintendo, are going to get smart and make a keyboard, mouse and standard pc monitor hookup for there latests systems, and program a gui for these that would make the current Apple and MS oses look like junk in comparison, maybe even some form of a 3D gui? And then allow developers to create MS Office, Word, and Excel type applications so we can have a TRULY all one media/video/music/gaming center. Rumors are that sony may port the LinuxOS to the playstation III, and if thats so then maybe a killer gui/graphics/programming environment is within the realm of possibility, I've had thoughts about this ever since the first consoles came in the market, and obviously still do now. Any thoughts?
MadMatt
Post 11 Mar 2005, 14:59
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f0dder



Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Posts: 3175
Location: Denmark
It would be sad if they port linux, instead of designing something good. 70es-mentality monolithic junk, no thanks.
Post 13 Mar 2005, 07:59
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tom tobias



Joined: 09 Sep 2003
Posts: 1318
Location: usa
I agree with you wholeheartedly, however, it is 60's junk, not 70's junk!
Post 13 Mar 2005, 09:26
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MCD



Joined: 21 Aug 2004
Posts: 604
Location: Germany
Yeaahh, don't like this old pc-base OS to appear on a completely new machine. They should do something new
Post 14 Mar 2005, 19:18
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pelaillo
Missing in inaction


Joined: 19 Jun 2003
Posts: 849
Location: Colombia
Your appreciations are misguided. Do you seriously think that IBM, Sony and Toshiba spend zzzillion dollars in developing that hardware and then use Linux for a dumb reason?
Post 14 Mar 2005, 22:04
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