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1 - I agree that's a huge, massively important thing, but there are non-x86 processors in the world which find their niche (in ARM's case it's quite a huge niche), so surely if it is possible to develop a processor which is so much better than x86 then why don't they already exist? I am hardly very well informed on the processor market, so for all I know they do, though I'd be surprised.

2. Sure, I guess what I'm getting at is that we've done amazing things with what we've got, I'm by no means suggesting we shouldn't take a broader view and replace crap, or at least work towards it where market entrenchment makes things difficult. The point is, again, that if there exists such a plausible alternative to the Von Neumann architecture, then why aren't there machines out there taking advantage? Again you could probably fill a niche this way. I suppose, in answer to my own question here, that you would be fighting a losing battle against the rest of the hardware out there being reliant on V-N but still, I'd have assumed that something would exist :)

3. Yeah. But it's hard + often the harder path to do things right in any industry. Such is life, not that that excuses anything.

4. A sort of philosophical point. Feel free to ignore :-).

5. There is stuff out there that already exists too though. Go, OCaml, Haskell, F# are all really interesting languages which in their own ways tackle a lot of the accidental complexity problems out there. Plan 9 + inferno are very interesting OSes, though they are probably a little too niche to be all that useful in the real world. But yeah, understandable, fighting the tide is difficult.

6. Cool will take a look.

Yeah - one of the things that attracts me to software engineering is the relative freedom you get to be fully creative in solving a problem. However that cuts both ways it seems.

so surely if it is possible to develop a processor which is so much better than x86 then why don't they already exist?

Suppose I invented a new chip that was awesome for gaming, spreadsheets, word processing, databases and power consumption.

Who would build PCs with it?

What OS would it run if someone built it?

Who would buy that?

Its not merely a "huge, massively important thing". Its the only thing.

Intel & HP tried this with the Itanium. A decade (or two) and billions of dollars later and x86 or at least x64 is still king.

No doubt they made some mistakes, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

(And having debugged code on an ia64 I'm quite happy with the status quo!)

Yes, and it was hilarious. It stunned me that Intel couldn't figure out that AMD was going to eat their lunch when they figured out a way to extend the x86 architecture to 64 bits while retaining software portability. For years Intel had beaten challenger after challenger based on the juggernaut of their software base (680x0, MIPS, NS32032, SPARC, PowerPC, Etc) and yet their brash attempt to push Itanium by not extending x86 was counter to all those previous victories. Kind of like a general taking a battle plan known to work and ignoring it.

As we move into an era of 'I don't see why I should get a new machine' of growth minimization there is a window for folks like ARM to get in with 'all day computing.' But it will take someone extraordinary to make that happen. Look at the state of Linux on ARM to understand the power of a legacy architecture.

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