64-bit Machines

DEC Alpha

Our first 64-bit workstation was a DEC Alpha. 64-bit SGI workstations were available, but priced to pave the way for inkjet printer consumables. Their performance was not good with the IDT early 64-bit MIPS chips.

MIPS 64-bit

We tackled several 64-bit MIPS designs and worked on a Momenco 64-bit MIPS board (but used 32-bit compilers). There were several starts at designs that may have benefitted from 64-bits, but none of them gained enough traction to become products.

PowerPC 970

The Apple G5 used dual IBM 970 64-bit PowerPCs. This was a really nice workstation, but its life would be cut short due to squabbles that Steve Jobs must have had with Motorola and IBM with heat envelopes for laptops. We used this machine to get past editing 2 GByte ASCII dumps with kernel panics, as well as making “tar backups” of files bigger than 2 GBytes.

Future Prospects

What other 64-bit chips are likely to interest us? We use the x86-64 in PC type hardware, but not for any embedded work. Will ARM ever get to 64-bits? For now, we are climbing out of this arms race and will probably pass our next few years in the 32-bit paddocks with clever I/O that can feed remote 64-bit commodity PCs.

Well, ARM did announce 64-bit enhancements at the end of October, 2011, plus AMCC was demonstrating a 64-bit FPGA emulation of chips they hope to sample in the second half of 2012.