The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Imagination Technologies's MIPS group, in the past of other companies such as Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Comp-arch.net wiki on hold from October 17, 2011 - CompArch

Comp-arch.net wiki on hold from October 17, 2011 - CompArch:

'via Blog this'

= On Hold =

The comp-arch.net wiki is being put on hold - or at least to a very low boil back burner -
as of Monday, October 17, 2011.

Reason: I (Andy Glew, the creator of and main contributor to comp-arch.net)
have decided to go back to work in industry as a computer architect at MIPS Technologies.

= (Pre)History of comp-arch.net =

I have long wanted to write a book that I threatened to call "The Art of Computer Architecture".
I would like it to be like Knuth's "The Art of Computer Programming",
except that I am no Don Knuth: I am willing to compromise, not necessarily provide full academic references,
if in exchange I can document the "folklore" of computer architecture - the things that hardware engineers
know or used to know, but which never seem to get written down, and which get re-invented every decade or so.

The web, and wikis in particular, provided a forum and technology to allow me to write this in small pieces.

At most of the computer companies I have worked at, in particular AMD and Intel
(but also to a lesser extent at Gould and Motorola, prior to the creation of the web)
I have created wikis like this.
Whenever other engineers asked me a question
for which the answer was known, in the literature and/or folklore,
but not necessarily easily accessible,
I would write up a white paper or wiki page explaining the topic.
Bonus: often in so doing I would realize missing alternatives in a taxonomy,
which would lead to new inventions.

These company-internal web and wiki sites proved popular.
Several times, former co-workers who had left industry to become academics
asked me if they were accessible outside the company.
I always had to say "No".

Intel and AMD never allowed me to create public versions of such websites.
Perhaps they would have given extensive legal review - but I found the process of getting such approval a large disincentive.
The document or wiki or website would be stale before approved.

In September 2009 I left Intel to join Intellectual Ventures.
One of the conditions for my joining IV was that I be allowed to work on such a public website,
(I actually created the website during the brief period between leaving Intel and starting work at IV.)
I am incredibly grateful to IV for giving me that opportunity.

Progress on comp-arch.net was slow, and probably not steady, but at least visible.
In two years I had created 300 public pages on comp-arch.net.

In addition, I created a certain number of private wiki pages, sometimes on topics that I thought might be worth patenting,
sometimes because I was afraid that disclosing the topics I was writing about might create conflict with IV.
Even though my employment agreement might give me the right to work on something in public,
I would not want to get in the way of my employer's business or marketing strategy.
Such conflicts would have loomed very large for Intel
- I would have had trouble writing honestly about Itanium at the time when Itanium was Intel's main emphasis
- and were much less of a problem for IV,
but still FUD and self-censorship were an impediment
to work on comp-arch.net.

However, I say again: I am immensely grateful to Intellectual Ventures for giving me the chance to start working on comp-arch.net.
If I was confident I could stay state-of-the-art as a computer architect while continuing to work on comp-arch.net
and with Intellectual Ventures, I would keep doing so.

= Present of comp-arch.net =

For reasons such as these I left Intellectual Ventures to return to work in industry as a computer architect.
On October 17, 2011, I joined MIPS Technologies.

At MIPS I do not expect to be able to write pages on comp-arch.net and post them in real time.
I will continue to try to work on comp-arch.net in private,
and occasionally seek approval to make stuff public.

= Working on the Wiki =

I will also take this opportunity to work on the technology of comp-arch.net.

In 2009 I started comp-arch.net using mediawiki.

I have long wanted a better wiki technology. My wiki wishlist is documented elsewhere on this wiki, and other places.
It includes better support for drawings,
and better support for melding of public and private content
- since it appears that such restrictions will be something I have to live with for the foreseeable future.
The computer hardware industry is not "open" as the wiki philosophy would have it,
except possibly within companies.

= Future of comp-arch.net =

As mentioned above, I hope to continue working on comp-arch.net,
making stuff public occasionally, when permitted.

Plus, if ever I retire, I hope to continue this labor of love.

= It's not just about me! =

Although I have been the main contributor to comp-arch.net,
there have been other contributors.

For example, Paul Aaron Clayton has made some contributions.

I hope that others can continue to work on comp-arch.net
during this time when I must leave it on hold.

If you are interested, please contact me, and I will arrange for access.

(I may need to do a bit of wiki work to separate the old stuff from new stuff.)

= Au revoir, et à bientôt =

I hope to see myself working on comp-arch.net again.

But for the moment, I am excited to be working towards actual shipping product again at MIPS.

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