[TUHS] Reaction to the 3B2 at Bell Labs

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Sun Nov 27 10:17:14 AEST 2022

On Sat, Nov 26, 2022 at 06:47:52PM -0500, Dan Cross wrote:
> On Sat, Nov 26, 2022, 6:23 PM Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com> wrote:
> > On Sat, Nov 26, 2022 at 06:00:38PM -0500, Marc Donner wrote:
> > > remarkably reliable.  As near as I can tell, this was what ultimately put
> > > DEC under ...
> >
> > Sun Microsystems has entered the chat...  They very much competed with
> > DEC and ate their lunch.
> >
> I think ultimately DEC ate DEC's own lunch. They bet on re VAX 9000 and
> that wasn't a wise gamble.

I read the Wikipedia page on the 9000.  It's sad that the 9000 wasn't 
cancelled when they had better alternatives.

It reminds me of a CPU I got cancelled at SGI.  It was in the mid
1990's and the project was code named "Beast".  It could do tons of
data movement, to make that happen, the packaging had pin recepters
on all sides, top, bottom, and all 4 sides.  The packaging, at volume,
was going to cost $1,200 each.  No CPU, just the packaging.

On top of that, SGI did a flip/flop design cycle, flip focussed on
integer performance, databases, while flop focussed on floating point
and catered to the super computing market.

This was when almost all of the processor architects were talking to me
because I had written LMbench which was a set of microbenchmarks that
measured bandwidth and latency of everything.  The architects loved them
because they were small and could be run on a simulator.

So I had a pretty good idea what Sun was coming up with (I had left Sun
for SGI), knew what Intel was doing, HP yep, DEC less so but had some
idea about the Alpha roadmap, IBM was the one place that I didn't have
good intel.

I looked at what Beast was claiming, looked at the past predictions
of MIPS chips and when they shipped vs when they would claim to ship,
and looked at the exploding internet / database market and gulped.
Beast was the wrong answer and we were gonna get crushed.

I started shopping my theory around, eventually got a meeting with
Wei Yen (who was someone high enough up).  I went over all the info
I had, Wei Yen was super impressed and asked me if this was my job
and I said "oh, no, this is just a hobby I play around with" and he
replied "Keep playing, you play nicely" and went off and cancelled

DEC needed someone with that sort of data.  I had actual performance
results from every processor in the mainstream and they were no
bullshit results, anyone could reproduce them.  Then I had some idea
of almost everyone's roadmap.  Without the data, they would have 
wasted a ton of money on Beast.

In the end, it didn't really matter, x86 killed SGI just like Sun
and IBM killed DEC.  And x86 killed Sun as well.
Larry McVoy           Retired to fishing          http://www.mcvoy.com/lm/boat

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