[self-interest] Re: Klein, ARM and Self Hardware

Jan-Paul Bultmann janpaulbultmann at me.com
Thu Dec 16 00:30:00 UTC 2010

On Dec 15, 2010, at 10:35 PM, Jecel Assumpcao Jr. wrote:

> Jan-Paul Bultmann wrote on Wed, 15 Dec 2010 20:20:23 +0100
> > On Dec 15, 2010, at 7:33 PM, Adam wrote:
> > > If I remember correctly, Klein doesn't have an x86 assembler or
> > > compiler. It has a Sparc assembler, and a PowerPC assembler and
> > > compiler. (The Apple transition to Intel happened right around the
> > > time when Klein was being cancelled at Sun.)
> That is what I remember too, but weren't there at least some stubs for
> x86 or 68000 processors? I would have to look at it again... yeah, just
> a i386 stub.
> > Oh noes, that would explain why I can't get it to build... 10.6
> > dropped Rosetta.
> That shouldn't matter. What processor the Self VM used to support Klein
> uses has not relation to what processor Klein itself understands since
> you could consider Klein to be a cross compiler.
Yea but the DebugServer xcodeproject is made for PPC and needs a bit of modification first, I thought that it was mainly developed on an intel mac first :).
> > So when we want to use it on a platform that is not only used in
> > SuperComputers today we have to go the arm or 86 way. And I would
> > then choose the ARM due to simplicity in the Assembler. (A Sparc
> > laptop would be rad though :D).
> I think at some point Self was running on the Sun SPARCstation Voyager,
> which is pretty close to a laptop. And there used to be a Sparc laptop
> from a company called Tadpole.
> About the general issue of Self hardware, however, it is important to
> remember that the major reason why the language failed to become more
> popular was that it required you to buy a very specific computer to run
> it on. My most expensive investment to date was exactly a Sun Ultra 5
> machine in 1998 just to be able to use Self at home instead of depending
> on the university. The Mac version in 2000 changed things, but this was
> also a machine that few people had and by then the reputation of Self as
> unavailable was hard to reverse.
True we should not make it hard for people to get hands on self. But I think the task of getting Klein to work, must not result in dropping everything else :)

> Now if you are talking about gathering a group of people to restart the
> development of Klein then it makes perfect sense to have all the
> programmers use the same hardware as their initial target in order not
> to waste time on porting issues in the begining.
> Most people on this list are probably very tired of hearing about this,
> but since we have newcomers I should mention that I worked on Self
> specific hardware from 1998 to 2008. At that point I joined a group of
> people who were already investing in Squeak Smalltalk so I changed the
> focus of my designs. But I still feel that my unimplemented RISC42
> processor would be a great target for Klein:
> http://www.merlintec.com:8080/hardware/RISC42/
> Note that at the board level, I use programmable logic (FPGAs) to
> implement my SiliconSqueak processor. This means that the boards could
> have RISC42 instead. Or even the Leon3, which is a very robust open
> source implementation of Sparc.
While I love the idea of custom self hardware, and like the design of the RISC42, it might be more practical for the start to use something that is easier to set up (I don't think many users will be able to do their FPGA :) while  everybody with the spare buck for a beagleboard could start right off).
When doing custom hardware I would maybee even do something radically different. Say 1000 primitive Cores with moderate cache for each one and no ram. When self was then retrofittet with some bits of the actor model, we could simply load one object per core and let them communicate via message passing :D so skipping ram entirely would bring a performance boost that would make the "slow" message passing worth it. But thats a story for another day (and my personal dream cpu so...;)).
 I love the merlin :D I really think it could massively reform education. But I think we could be better off using of the shelf parts (and the touchbook looks a bit like the merlin :)), so we can focus on the things that are "easy" and that users will feel an impact from.

cheers Jan

> -- Jecel

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