F-CPU Project
 Year 2000 status quo


 Forewords, presentation and remarks

 Part 0 : The "Open Hardware" trend

Part 1 : Organisation, Philosophy & History Questions from the audience

CD ?

Pause (3 mins)

Part 2 : F-CPU & FC0 scratch course

Questions from the audience

CD ?

Au revoir & CU@18C3 !!!


Part 0 : The "Open Hardware" trend

Part 1 : Organisation, Philosophy & History

What is the F-CPU ?

There is no exact definition. There are several points of view, depending on everyone's expectations and culture.

The F-CPU as a microprocessor is the only fully-customizable SIMD, superpipelined, 64-bit microprocessor. The sources are distributed under the terms of the GNU Public Licence, supplemented with a strong distribution charter and a quality charter.

It is also a group of people working together around the globe who are trying to design this microprocessor. They communicate through mailing lists and emails on the Internet, or they try to share their knowledge during meetings. Their skills range from lurkers to professional electronicians, with different degrees of involvement.


The goal of this project is to design a CPU that could replace and surpass existing CPUs in consumer or niche markets. It is not realistic to want the fastest CPU ever : we can't win against the big companies. But instead, the goal is to design the coolest, sexiest CPU of the 21th century, while still attempting to get the most perfomance. As the original design goal was to make a "Merced-killer", a more interesting competitor would be the Alpha CPU class.

The team has adopted a "constitution" in order to solve the design conflicts :

             To develop and make freely available an
architecture, and all other intellectual property necessary
to fabricate one or more implementations of that architecture,
with the following priorities, in decreasing order of importance:

       1. Versatility and usefulness in as wide a range of
             applications as possible
       2. Performance, emphasizing user-level parallelism and
             derived through intelligent architecture rather
             than advanced silicon process
       3. Architecture lifespan and forward compatibility
       4. Cost, including monetary and thermal considerations
We must limit ourselves to this goal, and not forget the initial purpose of this project. The goal is to make a CPU core, not a whole computer. It's already difficult enough and we don't have time to study the clusters, the PCB or the support software, these problem should be left to other specialized groups for the moment.

Origins of the project

Linux kernel contributors : Andrew D. Balsa, Rafael Reilova and Richard Gooch. They created the Freedom project in august 1998, as well as a mailing list, a first website, they studied a first design and triggered the F-CPU shockwave before they disapeared.

The original inspiration was a dream or a utopy based on real facts and their need for a "clean" platform that would make coding much easier than on today's machines.

Web organisation

Evolution/history of the organisation (who does what)

Enabling technologies and conditions

Business Model

Who will make the F-CPU ?

The F-CPU will first exist in software and in reprogrammable logic before it can beturned into a real full-custom chip.

Making a chip is extremely expensive, a simple ASIC costs several million dollars. A subscription has been proposed but

We should concentrate on the design, and not loose time on things that we don't understand. The goal of the project is not to create a new company but a new design. We should let the industry play its role : manufacture and make money. This will provide a fair ground for innovation and new developments.

The easiest way to "make" the F-CPU is with sponsors : we provide them with a free design and they let us develop the chip using their technology. The first company that does it will have a lot of advance because the masks and the adapted files will be ready before the others. It spares us a lot of time, not filling papers to create a fundation or something similar.

Examples of cooperations with the "free HW world" : (see http://www.opencollector.org/news/)

Licences Issues

see http://www.opencollector.org/hardlicense/

Patent Issues

Organisation Issues

Communication and collaborations


Ongoing discussions and extensions

Target platform

Anywhere we need a good CPU...
From embedded appliances to multi-CPU servers, running whatever OS that will be ported to it.

Calendar 2K

Association & Verein

Nothing yet ... It is not the biggest priority now...

Freedom : philosophie or religion ?

Should the "free hardware" be split into "churches", like in the Free Software world ?
Should the "free hardware" be separated from the "open hardware" ?
Is there a risk of excess à la RMS ?

Conclusion :
"design and let design"

Part 2 : F-CPU & FC0 scratch course





Yann GUIDON, 27/28/29 décembre 2000, Berlin/HAKP/17C3