Bill Dally, chief scientist at NVidia, thinks that two engineers in a garage should be able to design a prototype system on chip (SoC) in a couple of weeks. At the recent Design Automation Conference (DAC 2013), he presented a plan for making that possible—a modular chip design strategy that leverages much larger building blocks than standard cells.
Dally, who is also a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford University, gave a "short keynote" (called a SKY talk) at DAC June 5. The talk was titled "21st Century Digital Design Tools," and Dally set forth some of the requirements for such tools.
At the start of his fast-moving talk, Dally reminisced about starting a company in the 1980s while he was a graduate student at Cal Tech. He and his co-founders designed a full custom chip in a couple of weeks. "It was an era of innovation in which a few guys in a garage could build something," he said. "And since then I've noticed a steady downward progression in what a couple of guys in a garage can do. I think this is a really awful thing."
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