The Transputer’s Legacy

This piece is great. It tells a lot more of INMOS’s story than you’ll get from their wikipedia page.

I’m too young to remember the transputer from the first time around, but a lot of the old salts will tend to get all wistful, and stare into the distance when they recall the transputer. It was the great almost was in the accelerated computing days of yore. That was before microprocessors started evolving towards being superscalar and out-of-order, and the transputer was crushed.

I think the thing about the Transputer and INMOS is that it shows how this industry is different from many others. A computing company can go off like a firework, and be a complete financial disaster, but still leave big marks on the landscape. INMOS’s failure sowed the seeds for much more activity, and so from a wider perspective their failure benefited the industry as a whole. A noble failure.

Transputer architect David May’s latest venture is XMOS. It’s tempting to view the proposed technology as an answer to a question nobody asked. Will this company contribute anything to the tech economy, or generate a meme or two like INMOS did? Or will it be another Mathstar?


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