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Title: Beyond von Neumann computing

Mr. Steve Teig

President and CEO of Tabula


The "von Neumann architecture" for computers, invented mostly by Turing but popularized by the more famous von Neumann, has completely dominated computing for more than 65 years. It is a masterpiece of simplicity: readily implemented in hardware, easily understood by software developers, and amenable to compilation from a wide variety of programming languages. Unfortunately, it achieves its simplicity from the fundamental, non-physical assumption that reading from a memory location takes negligible, constant time independent of the size of the memory. Decades of innovation in computer architecture and compiler design for uniprocessors has masked some of the von Neumann computer's intrinsic latency. The power requirements for this disguise have become prohibitive, though, which has ended the long, exponential rise in uniprocessor clock frequency. Multi-core processors, the semiconductor industry's response, have the virtue that they can clearly be built, but no one knows how to program them! Further, they make the same negligible-latency assumptions as uniprocessors, but disguising that latency is now quadratically more difficult.

This talk will show that highly useful yet non-physical oversimplifications such as the von Neumann architecture have numerous historical precedents from which we can learn. These examples suggest that a more physically aware, non-von Neumann machine could offer higher-performance and far more power-efficient computation. Next, we offer some thoughts on what such a machine might look like - hint: it is not an array of microprocessors! - and how one might program it. It is only by simultaneously approaching architecture, hardware, and software, seeing them as aspects of a cohesive whole as von Neumann and Turing both did, that we maximize our chances of going beyond von Neumann computing.

Biographical sketch

Steve Teig is the President and CTO of Tabula and the inventor of Tabula’s Spacetime 3-Dimensional Programmable Logic Architecture. Prior to co-founding Tabula, Steve was co-CTO of Cadence Design Systems (NSDQ:CDNS). Steve joined Cadence through its acquisition of Simplex Solutions (NSDQ: SPLX), where he was also CTO. At Simplex, Steve invented and led the technology development for the X Architecture, which radically improves chip design by pervasively incorporating diagonal wiring. Before joining Simplex, Steve co-founded two successful biotechnology companies: CombiChem (NSDQ: CCHM, later acquired by DuPont Pharmaceuticals), where he was CTO, and BioCAD, where he was CTO and, later, CEO. At CombiChem, Steve invented and led the development of the company’s revolutionary Discovery Engine technology, with which CombiChem discovered pharmaceutical-lead compounds for 11 different therapeutic areas in only five years. At BioCAD, Steve led the design of Catalyst, which was the first widely used, pharmaceutical discovery software and is still a leading software package used worldwide.

In the 1980s, Steve spent several years in the EDA industry, where his work had a major impact still felt today. First, at Trilogy Systems in 1982, he invented compiled-code logic simulation and led the development of the first simulator based on that technology. Then, as CTO and co-founder of Tangent Systems in 1984 (which later became Cadence’s very first acquisition), he invented the principal place-and-route algorithms for the Tancell and Tangate products. Tancell was the first commercial, timing-driven P&R system and the first to use analytical placement, among other distinctions. Tangate, which was the first commercial, sea-of-gates P&R system, became Cadence’s Gate Ensemble and Cell-3 Ensemble products, which have cumulatively generated over $2 B in revenue.

Steve received a B.S.E. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University. He holds over 220 patents. In 2002, he broke Thomas Edison’s record for the number of patents filed by an individual in a single year.

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