Re: The development tendency of compilation tech?
25 Feb 2007 12:50:31 -0500

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Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 25 Feb 2007 12:50:31 -0500
Organization: Compilers Central
References: 07-01-04307-01-072
Keywords: history, practice
Posted-Date: 25 Feb 2007 12:50:31 EST

> What's new in compilers? Very little. I think in 10 years, compiling
> will be largely forgotten.

Parallelism. Processors are going parallel and there is no clear
solution to that problem. The future of processor architecture is

> Diversity in computing is over. Long gone are the days of
> free-spirited innovation, today hardware and software development
> appear to be in a sort of lock step. More and more computing is done
> with the products of Big Brothers 1 and 2, and management appears to
> have been conditioned not to accept anything outside of the
> mainstream.

I don't think this is the best time to say this. We're having massive
and unpredictable changes in processor architectures as we switch from
single-core to massively parallel. Look at what Ageia, Intel, AMD/ATI,
nvidia, Tarari, Clearspeed, everyone really, is doing in processor
design. It's all going parallel but in lots of different ways. The
future processing power of PCs and mobile devices is going to be
predominantly in the parallel devices and there is no clear
architectural model for those devices. They're all different.

> Except maybe where there is lots to be gained by more performant and
> non-conformant application software, there is reduced incentive to
> accept or develop anything like a new language, let alone compile it.
> What ever happened to massively parallel and array architectures, or
> more accurately, why doesn't any of this ever reach the mainstream?

They're everywhere. And about to get even more everywhere. Apart from
maybe the desktop in the office. But Microsoft's new Vista is trying
to make GPUs standard for office desktop machines. GPUs, Cell, Physics
processors, FPGAs, they're all over the place and they're all parallel
devices. Dual-core x86 CPUs are standard for PCs now, quad-core to
follow, and then what? Increasing clock speed in the past has
increased power consumption. And we have now maxed out on power
consumption, so processor designers have to concentrate on increasing
performance without increasing power consumption.

> Generally, the average workstation or laptop spends most of its time
> waiting on mouse clicks, as computing horsepower is much more than
> enough for the average user. Thus applications written in interpreted
> languages perform acceptably, where this would not have been the case
> before say the introduction of the 386.

Everyone always says that! I remember saying it about the 386. Bill
Gates said it about 640K of RAM. We always want more processing power.
Maybe not for running Word. But for digital media: HD TV or games, or
for being able to speak to your computer, or engineering, or medical
imaging, or financial modelling, there are loads of situations where
more processing power will give significant improvements.

> Compilation is the economic necessity of underperforming hardware.

Compilation is pretty much necessary for software development. I do
remember the days of programming in assembly and I know people who
still do. I can see what you're saying, but it's the wrong time to be
saying it. People are really struggling to develop software for multi-
core processors (beyond the very simple). We're about to release some
new compiler technology to deal with parallelism and I know others are

Andrew Richards

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