ARM two Thumbs upBy Chris Williams. Published: 17th Jun 2003, 12:29:43 | Permalink | Printable
InterestingARM yesterday wheeled out details of their new Thumb-2 instruction set at the Embedded Processor Forum, California. The Thumb-2 instruction set, "builds upon the existing ARM instruction set architecture", according to ARM.
ARM's Thumb architecture squashes their 32 bit instruction set (the fundamental program code that the microprocessor can execute) into 16 bit form to increase efficiency and performance, which is surprisingly useful in the embedded arena. The Thumb-2 architecture blends the 16 bit set with the 32 bit set.
"Thumb-2 core technology uses 26 percent less memory than pure 32-bit code", said ARM's Embedded CPU manager, Richard Phelan.
ARM, originally spun off from Acorn in the early days, are the designers behind the RISC processors present in all RISC OS computers. Nowadays, ARM is best known as a leading provider of embedded processors for devices from PDAs to mobile phones to STBs. Also, ARM designs chips and licenses the blueprints of which to other manufacturers (like Intel), who then make the actual devices.
Despite the ability to mix 16 bit and 32 bit instructions, we'll have to see if Thumb-2 has any effect whatsoever on future RISC OS software and operating systems, however we imagine ARM Linux will be most likely affected as it follows ARM into PDAs and other embedded platforms. CNET isn't expecting Thumb-2 chips for another two years.
Alex Waugh, who first emailed us about the ARM news as a nudge in the direction of where our processor architecture is heading, commented to us, "While [the Thumb-2 news] doesn't give much detail, and isn't directly RISC OS related it is nevertheless a significant development of the ARM architecture."
Incidentally, the ARM website frontpage reads, "Chances are that you have just used an ARM Powered product within the last hour, minute or second". Which is delightfully true given the ARM610 powered mobile and StrongARM RiscPC on this desk.
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