Who are the Computer Architects?

last updated: April 2024

  1. Considerations about the list
  2. Supercomputer processors
  3. VLIW processors
  4. Independence architecture processors (Intel IA-64)
  5. Mainframe processors
  6. Minisupercomputer processors
  7. Minicomputer and Superminicomputer processors (16 and 32-bit)
  8. Microcomputer processors
  9. Workstation processors (32 and 64-bit)
  10. Selected early workstations
  11. Wintel processors (16 and 32-bit)
  12. Multimedia processors
  13. LISP processors
  14. Java processors
  15. Other language-directed processors
  16. Stack processors
  17. Embedded processors
  18. DSP processors
  19. Selected game processors
  20. Acknowledgements
  21. Revision history


Considerations about the list

The success and failure of high risk computer developments can quite often be traced to a single individual. It is not accidental that unique persons such as Gene Amdahl, Seymour Cray, Fred Brooks, and Bob Barton have become recognized leaders in the computer architecture and design field. Their reputations did not arise from a happy coincidence of being associated with a successful project; rather, they stand out because of their ability to generate a system wide concept, determine a course of action to get it implemented, make the necessary tradeoffs and finally drive through all obstacles to ensure completion of their vision.

Neil Lincoln, CDC (from "It's really not as much fun building a supercomputer as it is simply inventing one," in Kuck, Lawrie, and Samek, eds., High Speed Computer and Algorithm Organization, Academic Press, 1977)

There is no doubt that Lincoln named four of the most influential computer architects of the 1950s and 1960s. However, as a more recent architect told me, people outside the design circles (sometimes even meaning company executives) have bought into a myth: "in the '60s, Computer Architecture Giants Walked The Earth, and we pathetic lame-o descendants aren't fit to carry their slide rules." I agree that it is a myth. It shouldn't be the case that just Amdahl, Cray, Brooks, and Barton are recognized as giants in computer architecture and everyone else today is a midget. There are many tremendously gifted people at work in instruction set design and especially microarchitecture; so, I am publishing this list to identify them and recognize their work.

The current format is a listing of an instruction set architecture (ISA) and its architect(s), followed by implementations of that ISA and the associated microarchitect(s)/designer(s). The processors I am listing have been available for sale commercially, and in most instances, I have categorized the processors by company. Although I may extend the list back into and before the 1970s, the current list mainly includes late 1980s and 1990s ISAs and microprocessor implementations. I especially want to highlight the high-performance (i.e., high-risk) implementations.

However, I approach this task recognizing several limitations of the list:

I would appreciate help in the form of your corrections, additions, and other suggestions. I am especially interested in published articles of these kinds:

I am also interested in URLs of web-published information.

I know of three books that help describe the environment and decision-making constraints (e.g., politics) facing an architect:

Harwood Kolsky wrote an excellent analysis of the problems in the IBM Stretch project. His observations, written in 1961, about problems such as a committee compromising and including competing proposals in a single design and such as making design decisions without proper cost and performance evaluation, remain relevant 50 years later!

Robert Yung's PhD dissertation, "Evaluation of a Commercial Microprocessor," UC Berkeley, SMLI TR-98-65, June 1998, describes the design decisions for the UltraSPARC microprocessor. Chapter 3 of his dissertation discusses design principles and pitfalls, and Chapter 6 discusses lessons learned with respect to design methodologies, business decisions, and technology considerations.

More recently, Bob Colwell has discussed some of his experiences at Intel in the 1990s while working on the Intel P6 and early phases of the Pentium 4 in Things CPU Architects Need To Think About (abstract), Stanford University Computer Systems Laboratory, EE380 Colloquium Series, Feb. 18, 2004. [available on the web, Windows Media, 80+ mins.] Bob has also written a book describing his experiences, mainly from a project manager perspective, called The Pentium Chronicles, IEEE-CS/Wiley-Interscience, 2006, and in 2009 was interviewed by Paul Edwards for an oral history (164 pp pdf).

Also, some articles that describe the design and verification process include:

Mark Smotherman


See also the list of machine designs admired by computer architects.


Supercomputer processors

... much more to do!


Astronautics


Control Data Corporation (CDC)


Cray Research (CRI)

[Seymour Cray left CDC in 1972 to found CRI. He left CRI in 1989 to found CCC. CRI merged with SGI in 1996. A separate Cray Research business unit was later created by SGI in 1999 and sold to Tera in 2000. Tera renamed itself as Cray, Inc.]


Cray Computer (CCC)

[CCC started in 1989 and closed in 1995. Seymour Cray founded SRC in 1996.]


ETA


Fuji Film


Fujitsu


Hitachi


NEC


Supercomputer Systems, Inc. (SSI)


SiCortex


Tera


Texas Instruments


Thinking Machines, Inc. (TMI)


VLIW processors

... more to do!

See multimedia processor section.


Analog Devices


Apollo (see Apollo entry in workstation processor section)


Broadcom


Culler Scientific Systems


Cydrome


FPS (Floating Point Systems)


Fujitsu


Intel


Multiflow


Tera (see supercomputer processor section)


Texas Instruments


Independence architecture processors

Name due to Josh Fisher and Bob Rau. Explicitly encoded information on instruction independence is placed in the instruction format by the compiler. Difference from VLIW is that hardware does the scheduling. Example prototype is Burton Smith's Horizon processor. ... more to do!


Intel


StarCore


Texas Instruments


Mainframe processors

to be done


Burroughs


Control Data Corporation (CDC)


Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)


General Electric (GE) / Honeywell Information Systems (HIS)


Fujitsu


International Business Machines (IBM)


Univac


Minisupercomputer processors

... more to do!


Alliant


Ardent


Convex


Scientific Computer Systems


Stardent


Supertek


Stellar



Minicomputer and Superminicomputer processors

... more to do!


Cal Data


Data General


Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)


National Semi


Prime


Tandem


Microcomputer processors

... much more to do!


Intel


Motorola


MOS Technologies


Zilog


Workstation processors

Includes 32-bit and 64-bit processors. Some of these were called supermicrocomputers in the 1980s.


Apple/IBM/Motorola PowerPC


AMD 29K (Advanced Micro Devices)


Apollo


DEC (later Compaq)


HP


Intergraph


IBM

(see also Apple/IBM/Motorola PowerPC above)


Intel


MIPS


Motorola 68K/88K


National Semiconductor


SPARC


Three Rivers


Weitek


Xerox


Zilog


Selected early workstations

need intro...


Apollo (see Apollo entry in workstation processor section)


Masscomp (later Concurrent)


Tektronix


Three Rivers (see Three Rivers PERQ entry in workstation processor section)


Xerox (see Xerox entry in workstation processor section)


Multimedia processors

... more to do!


Chromatic Research


Equator / Hitachi


MicroUnity


Philips


Wintel processors

Because of the large market for x86-compatible processors, this is a special section devoted to processor within that market. See Christain Ludloff's sandpile.org for detailed information on particular chips.


AMD (Advanced Micro Devices)


Cyrix (see IDT/Centaur/VIA below)


IDT / Centaur / VIA


Intel

  • P7, 1991-1994 (RISC-like 64-bit architecture definition effort; led to Itanium)

  • IA64 / Itanium (see independence arch. processor section)


    NexGen


    Rise


    Transmeta


    LISP processors

    need intro... MIT CONS machine, then CADR ...
    Richard Greenblatt: The LISP Machine. November 1974
    Tom Knight: CONS. November 1974
    F. Knight, Jr., David A. Moon, Jack Holloway and Guy L. Steele, Jr.: CADR, May 1979


    Symbolics


    LISP Machines, Inc. (LMI)


    Texas Instruments


    Xerox


    Java processors

    need intro...


    Patriot Scientific Corp.


    Rockwell


    Sun JavaChips


    Other language-based processors

    need intro...


    Rational


    Stack processors

    The credit for collecting information in this section goes to Phil Koopman. He has found lots of designs but most with relatively low sales volume. Phil has a web page that points to current sales sources of stack processors.


    Echelon


    Harris


    Novix


    Embedded processors

    more to do... (Phil Koopman describes this market in his 1996 ICCD paper.)


    AMD (Advanced Micro Devices)


    ARM (Advanced RISC Machines, Ltd.)


    DEC


    Hitachi


    Intel


    MIPS


    Motorola / Freescale


    National Semiconductor


    Rockwell


    Transputer


    DSP processors

    to be done - DSP architectures include special instructions for processing digital signal data

    The following early history of DSP chips given by Murat Kunt, Swiss Federal Inst. of Tech., at the 1990 CERN School of Computing

    1978 AMI S2811
    1979 Intel 2920/21 (telecomm)
    1979 Bell Labs DSP 1 (internal)
    1980 NEC uPD7720
    1980 Analog Devices ADSP-2100
    1981 IBM Hermes (internal)
    1982 Hitachi 61810
    1982 Texas Instruments 32010

    representative chips
    GP DSPs: AT&T DSP16, DSP32; Motorola DSP56116, DSP5600x, DSP 9600x; TI TMS320Cxx; Analog Devices 2100
    Digital filter specific DSPs: INMOS A100, LSI64240, Motorola DSP56200, Zoran
    FFT specific DSPs: TRW2310, HDSP66110, UT69532, Zoran


    Texas Instruments


    Selected game processors

    ... more to do


    Nintendo 64


    Sony Playstation 2


    Acknowledgements

    My thanks to the following for their help in identifying some of the folks listed above and telling me about the projects in which they were involved: John Ahlstrom, Don Alpert, Carl Alsing, Mitch Alsup, Steve Anderson, Tom Anderson, Siamak Arya, Pete Bannon, Allen Baum, Rich Belgard, Dave Bernstein, Mark Bluhm, Joel Boney, David Boreham, David Boundy, Henry Burkhardt III, Brian Case, Clem Cole, Bob Colwell, Chuck Corley, Charlie Crabb, Jim Dehnert, Marvin Denman, Keith Diefendorff, Jason Eckhardt, John Edmondson, Dave Epstein, Eric Fischer, Russell Fish, Alan Folmsbee, David Fotland, Philip Freidin, Robert Garner, Doug Gilmore, Ivan Godard, George Gray, Dan Green, Greg Grohoski, Mike Haertel, Andrew Haley, Chris Hinds, Peter Hoffman, Jan Hoogerbrugge, Marty Hopkins, Hugh Hyatt, Gideon Intrater, Dave Jaggar, Earl Killian, Phil Koopman, Al Kossow, Ashok Kumar, Steven Kunkel, Dan Lau, Guy Lemieux, Jud Leonard, Tim Leonard, Richard Lethin, Bill Mangione-Smith, John Mashey, Shawn McLean, Avraham Menachem, Steve Morse, Claude Moughanni, Steve Muchnick, Harm Munk, Michael O'Connor, Vojin Oklobdzija, Tim Olson, Ken Omohundro, Howard Owens, Yale Patt, Dave Patterson, Jeff Rupley, John Ruttenberg, Ulf Samuelsson, Harsh Sharangpani, Ray Simar, Robert Simpson, Peter Song, Zalman Stern, H.W. Stockman, Steve Strazdus, Bob Supnik, Sergey Svishchev, Ran Talmudi, Julian Thomas, Ross Towle, Nick Tredennick, Marc Tremblay, Stuart Tucker, Paul Walker, David Weinzierl, Uri Weiser, Turner Whitted, Sophie Wilson, Steve Wilson, Bill Worley, and Mike Ziegler. (My apologies to these individuals for any misunderstandings on my part about the information they have graciously shared with me; the errors in the architects list above remain mine.)


    Revision history


    [History page] [Mark's homepage] [CPSC homepage] [Clemson Univ. homepage]

    mark@cs.clemson.edu