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Hardware Central: Transmeta's Crusoe, Hot Rod or Performance Hog?

Oct 30, 2000, 12:25 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Sander Sassen)

"In actuality Transmeta has developed a whole new approach to microprocessor design, and not just another processor. Currently an entire processor with the accompanied instruction set is implemented in hardware (for example a x86 processor such as the Intel Pentium III), and then the software is written specifically to make use of that instruction set. Transmeta chose to do it differently; rather than implementing the entire x86 instruction set of the processor in hardware, the Crusoe processor consists of a compact hardware engine surrounded by a software layer."

"The hardware component is a very simple, high-performance, low-power VLIW (Very Long Instruction Word) engine with an instruction set that bears no resemblance to that of x86 processors. Instead, it is the surrounding software layer that gives programs the impression that they are running on x86 hardware. This innovative software layer is called the Code Morphing software because it dynamically translates or rather "morphs" x86 instructions into the hardware engine's native instruction set."

"This unique approach to executing x86 code eliminates millions of transistors, replacing them with software. For example, the current implementation of the Crusoe processor uses roughly one-quarter of the logic transistors required for an all-hardware design of similar complexity."

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