All hail the REGIONAL microprocessors

Microprocessors make the world go round. Never forget it.

All hail the REGIONAL microprocessors /img/risc-v.jpg

Sure, software is eating the world (because “robots” are nothing else but software inside more or less hu/man-shaped objects). But software cannot exist without microprocessors that execute it. This has always been true, but this is an age of proposals for Marshall Plans for chips, and of Coronavirus redrawing the worldwide digital economy. A time, that is, that makes “regional” microprocessors really important.

OK, but what on Earth are “regional” microprocessors?

A great real-world example is the RISC-V, which is Open Source, meaning that everybody can use and adapt its design without asking for permission, or paying royalties. Besides being Open Source Hardware, the RISC-V project is good because, as described in “Rise of RISC-V”:

  • “By having a modular, simple design, you can technically innovate and disrupt in many different industries, across a wide spectrum of applications”
  • “By having an open and free business model, you can bring down costs, and you can collaborate for the development of the workload you’re wishing to serve”

Microprocessors make the world go round. They better be OPEN and “REGIONAL”

The really interesting side of RISC-V, is “the different directions in which the community seems to be growing”. The traditional, proprietary industry of high performance microprocessors is extremely expensive, and therefore concentrated into very, very few corporations and manufacturing centers worldwide. The RISC-V project, instead:

  • had 20 different regional events in 2019
  • multiple, more or less independent implementations around the globe, including:
  • 30 members of the RISC-V Foundation, and “more than 200 people participating in local RISC-V associations” in China
  • “State-level support” in India for a project to create six different RISC-V processors
  • an enthusiastic community in Japan, raising interest “from automotive, from HPC (High Performance Computing), and across a wide spectrum of interest stemming from Japan”
  • surprising popularity in Pakistan, “where 3,000 people showed up for two RISC-V events. The Foundation is now setting up its first dedicated RISC-V training facility in Pakistan”

These times of Coronavirus show how dumb it is to for the planet to depend on one, or very very few sources for any critical components. Microprocessors are what makes our digital world go round. They are, almost literally, its brain. It is in everybody’s interest, and by “everybody” I mean everything from sovereign states to single citizens, that microprocessors are both open and as really “regional”, that is simultaneously designed and manufactured in multiple independent areas, by independent organizations.