steve+comp.lang.python at pearwood.info
Sun Apr 3 00:01:41 EDT 2011
On Sun, 03 Apr 2011 12:10:35 +1200, Gregory Ewing wrote:
> Brad wrote:
>> I've heard of Java CPUs. Has anyone implemented a Python CPU in VHDL or
> Not that I know of.
> I've had thoughts about designing one, just for the exercise.
> It's doubtful whether such a thing would ever be of practical use.
> Without as much money as Intel has to throw at CPU development, it's
> likely that a Python chip would always be slower and more expensive than
> an off-the-shelf CPU running a tightly-coded interpreter.
I recall back in the late 80s or early 90s, Apple and Texas Instruments
collaborated to build a dual-CPU Lisp machine. I don't remember all the
details, but it was an Apple Macintosh II with a second CPU running (I
think) a TI Explorer (possibly on a Nubus card?), with an integration
layer that let the two hardware machines talk to each other. It was dual-
branded Apple and TI.
It was a major flop. It was released around the time that general purpose
CPUs started to get fast enough to run Lisp code faster than a custom-
made Lisp CPU could. I don't remember the actual pricing, so I'm going to
make it up... you got better performance from a standard Mac II with
software Lisp for (say) $12,000 than you got with a dedicated Lisp
machine for (say) $20,000.
(These are vaguely recalled 1980s prices. I'm assuming $10K for a Mac II
and $2K for the Lisp compiler. Of course these days a $400 entry level PC
is far more powerful than a Mac II.)
There were also Forth chips, which let you run Forth in hardware. I
believe they were much faster than Forth in software, but were killed by
the falling popularity of Forth.
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