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Prototype Motherboard Clusters Self-Coordinating Modules 115

An anonymous reader writes "A group of hardware hackers has created a motherboard prototype that uses separate modules, each of which has its own processor, memory and storage. Each square cell in this design serves as a mini-motherboard and network node; the cells can allocate power and decide to accept or reject incoming transmissions and programs independently. Together, they form a networked cluster with significantly greater power than the individual modules. The design, called the Illuminato X Machina, is vastly different from the separate processor, memory and storage components that govern computers today."
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Prototype Motherboard Clusters Self-Coordinating Modules

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  • Transputers, anyone? (Score:5, Informative)

    by PaulBu ( 473180 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @06:47PM (#29126569) Homepage

    Am I too old to remember them? And before that, there was Connection Machine...

    Also (yes, I clicked on TFA! :) ), planar (in graph theory terms) interconnect topology would seem a bit too simplistic for anything resembling efficient routing...

    Paul B.

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Informative)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @06:55PM (#29126629) Journal

    So how do you upgrade this? I would assume you would add more modules but that would increase the space of the computer and so tiny computers would be underpowered while you could get one the size of a large TV that would be lightning fast, but who wants a huge computer? Especially for a laptop or HTPC.

    Define "tiny computers"
    Cellphones have more processing power than the original room-sized super computers.
    Heck, there are cellphones with more power than any desktop computer I owned during the 90's.

    And define "huge computer"
    Most of a mid-tower case is nothing but empty space
    And since you can easily do audio/video processing in hardware,
    there's no reason it wouldn't be perfectly fine for a HTPC.

  • by Arthur Grumbine ( 1086397 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @08:05PM (#29127277) Journal

    David Ackley brags, "We have a CPU, RAM, data storage and serial ports for connectivity on every two square inches."

    That sounds kinda expensive to me, even at only 72MHz/16K/128K per module.

    Well it seems like Ackley misspoke (or was misquoted). The actual dimensions from one of their Official Retailers [liquidware.com] is 1.87" x 1.87" x 0.25". More like "2 inches square" (or 4 square inches) as opposed to "2 square inches". But at $55/each they are definitely not going to out-price/perform any Intel/AMD desktop chips on this first production run. But that's not what they're aiming for, judging from the inspired rhetoric on their main site, and their official retailer's site. They're more about a paradigm shift in computer building.

    Pretty exciting stuff if they keep up the momentum. IMHO, the computer industry is definitely in need of a paradigm shift like this - to allow for easier, and more refined, modular scalability to provide the best support for upcoming industries like robotics and spaceflight

  • by dha ( 23395 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:06PM (#29127695)

    I'm part of the project that produced this board.

    I am definitely, yes, old enough to remember the Transputer. And I hacked artificial life models on the MasPar in the early 90's, which had an architecture in some ways similar to the Connection Machine.

    Although the IXM is indeed 'embarrassingly suitable' for assembly into planar grids, it certainly isn't restricted to that. With right angle headers, for example, it's easy to make shapes likes rings and cubes and so forth.

    When the global computational geometry of a machine is fixed at design time, before the ultimate task is known, routing can easily become a major problem. And general routing is hard. Maybe too hard.

    But part of exploring modular systems in the 'physical computation' space is trying to figure out ways to make the geometry of the particular computer you build better fit the behavior you're implementing, which can help ease the general purpose routing problem.

    And if one really gets into a corner, well, ribbon cable is cheap.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats