A Java chip available -- now!

Thursday Apr 8th 1999 by Rick Brian Slack
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Meet the state-of-the-art Java microprocessor almost nobody's heard of -- the question is 'why not?'.

Java software development is in high gear as acceptance of this robust "write once, run anywhere" language continues to accelerate. But where's the hardware that will allow Java to run at the speeds users rightfully expect and will eventually demand? And what about hardware to support all these new-wave "Internet appliances" where Java is planned to serve as the backbone?

The reality is that it's already here! Patriot Scientific Corp. offers the PSC1000; a microprocessor originally designed to run C and FORTH (which it does efficiently) that just happens to execute Java at native speeds.

The Patriot PSC1000A Java microprocessor is the only true low-cost, high-performance, native Java processor currently available. It is ideal for Internet-enabled information kiosks, cell and video phones, embedded Web servers, set-top boxes, and a host of other new Internet appliances. The 32-bit microprocessor, based on Patriot's patented ShBoom technology, is designed to provide cost-efficient solutions for the growing number of new Java applications, as well as other traditional embedded systems markets.

"We are pleased to see [Patriot] incorporating JavaOS into their cutting-edge PSC1000 microprocessor," said David Spenhoff, director of product marketing and field communications for Sun Microsystems' JavaSoft division. "Patriot's microprocessors make the development of exciting, Internet-enabled, Java-based products possible."


The PSC1000 Microprocessor is a highly integrated 32-bit RISC processor that offers the ability to run Java programs at native performance levels.


The PSC1000 is currently available in a .5-micron configuration, runs at 100 MHz, and is available in 5-volt and 3.3-volt versions. The next-generation .35-micron configuration of the microprocessor is expected to be available soon, running in the 150-MHz range. All the "nitty-gritty" detailed information provided below pertains to the current .5-micron PSC1000.

The nitty-gritty

The PSC1000 Microprocessor is a highly integrated 32-bit RISC processor that offers the ability to run Java programs at native performance levels, as well as retaining excellent performance for C and FORTH applications. It provides unparalleled price/performance for a wide range of embedded applications. This unique architecture is a blend of the best of stack and register-based designs, enabling features such as 8-bit instructions for enhanced performance and optimal code size. The 32-bit registers and data paths fully support 32-bit addresses and data types. It addresses up to four gigabytes of physical memory, and supports virtual memory with the use of external mapping logic.

The PSC1000 is targeted for embedded applications that require high Microprocessing Unit (MPU) performance and low system cost. In particular, the PSC1000 is ideal for Java-based devices and other nontraditional applications of Internet connectivity. Until now, Internet connectivity has required expensive servers to provide information and desktop computers to access that information. The PSC1000's outstanding price and native Java performance will enable low-cost devices to connect to the Internet. Examples of clients or browsers that will gain access to information on the Internet include personal digital assistants, set-top cable boxes and "smart" cell phones. On the server side, many common devices will be connected to the Internet for monitor and control purposes. This will be accomplished via tiny embedded Web servers, which will allow information from these devices to be viewed on the Internet via any standard browser. Examples of devices that will greatly benefit from monitor and control via standard Internet protocols include laser printers, network routers, factory floor machinery, security systems, even household appliances such as refrigerators. In addition, the PSC1000 is well suited to a variety of traditional embedded systems such as graphics accelerators, motor controls, factory floor controllers, automotive applications, and many others.

The PSC1000 MPU contains 52 general-purpose registers, including 16 global data registers, an index register, a count register, a 16-deep addressable register/return stack, and an 18-deep operand stack. Both stacks contain an index register in the top element, are cached on chip, and when required, automatically spill to and refill from external memory. The stacks minimize the data movement typical of register-based architectures and also minimize memory accesses during procedure calls, parameter passing, and variable assignments. Additionally, the MPU contains a mode/status register and 41 locally addressed registers for I/O, control, configuration, and status.

The PSC1000 Central Processing Unit (CPU) instruction sets are hardwired, allowing most instructions to execute in a single cycle, without the use of pipelines or superscalar architecture. A "flow-through" design allows the next instruction to start before the prior instruction completes, thus increasing performance. The PSC1000 CPU operates up to four groups of programmable bus configurations from as fast as 20 ns to as slow as 820 ns, allowing any desired mix of high-speed and low-speed memory. Minimum system cost is reduced, thus allowing the system designer to trade system cost for performance as needed.


By incorporating many on-chip system functions and a "glueless" bus interface, support chips are eliminated, further lowering system cost.


The PSC1000 CPU architectural philosophy is that of simplification and efficiency of use. A zero-operand design eliminates most operand bits, and the decoding time and instruction space they require. Instructions are shrunk to 8-bits, significantly increasing instruction bandwidth and reducing program size. By not using pipeline or superscalar execution, the resulting control simplicity increases execution speed to issue and complete an instruction in a single clock cycle, as often as every clock cycle, without a conventional instruction cache. To ensure a low-cost chip, a data cache and its cost are also eliminated in favor of efficient register caches.

By incorporating many on-chip system functions and a "glueless" bus interface, support chips are eliminated, further lowering system cost. The CPU includes an MPU, an I/O processor, a DMA controller, an interrupt controller, bit inputs, bit outputs, and a programmable memory interface. It can operate with 32-bit-wide and 8-bit-wide memory and devices, and includes hardware debugging support. A minimum system consists of a PSC1000 CPU, an 8-bit-wide EPROM, an oscillator, and optionally one x8 or two x16 memories -- a total of four or five active components. The small die, which contains only 137,500 transistors, produces a high-performance, low-cost CPU, and a high level of integration produces a high-performance, low-cost system.

More information and a downloadable data sheet on the PSC1000 are available from the Patriot Scientific Web site. Full reference documentation is available in evaluation kits, which include an evaluation board, as well as all development tools for the PSC1000.





Current customers

Those using the new chip include the following.

Genroco, Inc., a builder of high-bandwidth, high data-transfer Fibre Channel, HIPPI, Ultra SCSI, and DVB products targeted for end use in digital video, 3-D seismic and satellite imaging applications. The PSC1000, embedded as a powerful Java-based microprocessor in a single computer interface circuit card developed by Genroco, Inc. will help support a new version of Oracle Corp.'s Oracle Video Server. The processor is considered an integral part of an interface card produced by Genroco for Oracle and several major platform vendors. "The PSC1000's stack-based architecture is best for real-time operating systems," said Genroco's chairman and CEO, Carl Pick, in explaining why his company chose the Patriot microprocessor as its engine. "With Patriot's processor, we have flexibility in tasking, as well as ultra-high-speed interfacing. It is the best choice for our real-time requirements based on its low cost, small size and high performance. The PSC1000 is the key component which will allow new Genroco modules to execute firmware over 20 times faster than current offerings, allowing us to readily scale the technology from present gigabit to future gigabyte per second bandwidths."


Wind River Systems, Inc. has agreed to license its operating system technology to Patriot.


Olea Exhibits, Inc., a major producer of multimedia kiosks and interactive pavilions. Olea has placed an initial multi-million-dollar order with Patriot for multimedia controller modules, which Patriot will build utilizing the PSC1000 microprocessor. "We chose to work with Patriot to power our multimedia systems in part because of their ability to develop the necessary software and multimedia controllers but mainly because of the PSC1000 processor capabilities, low cost, and high performance," said Mark Olea, president of Olea Exhibits, Inc. "After evaluating numerous other controller options, we selected Patriot's unique, versatile microprocessor because it satisfies our need for C language as well as Java applications." Olea intends to use the multimedia controllers for DVD drives in kiosks that currently use a PC, replacing a Windows NT host for multimedia and communications systems. Future system functionality includes Internet access, services like lottery ticket purchases, providing information in multiple languages, presenting electronic brochures, and printing coupons, maps and directions. Additionally, Olea plans to build ATM and financial services kiosks with online video-teller services. Upcoming features for the multimedia and communications systems include interactive infrared cameras, temperature monitors for fire detection, motion sensors, and the ability to conduct mass-media marketing surveys.

Strategic alliances

Patriot has established several strategic alliances, including those with:

FORTH, Inc. to bring its well-accepted development tools to Patriot's powerful PSC1000 microprocessor for developers in the embedded and industrial application marketplace. "The PSC1000 is an extremely fast processor and its overall performance levels are superior to any microprocessor that we have tested in relation to our new software" (SwiftX integrated cross-development system), said FORTH, Inc.'s president, Elizabeth Rather. "This processor and our software are both based upon stack architectures, which makes the PSC1000 a perfect match for the FORTH language."

Wind River Systems, Inc., which has agreed to license its operating system technology to Patriot, allowing Patriot to optimize the technology for use with PersonalJava. Under this arrangement, Patriot will develop a unique Java-ready platform delivering solutions that are far easier to develop for and considerably less expensive than alternatives. Patriot will also make Wind River's operating system technology available on the PSC1000 for traditional embedded applications not utilizing Java. ''The combination of operating system technology from Wind River Systems with the PSC1000 processor offers a very powerful, low-cost platform for embedded applications,'' commented Dave Sheaffer, director of hardware platforms for Wind River Systems. ''Moreover, Patriot's implementation of PersonalJava provides value to systems designers developing products for the embedded Java space. Patriot Scientific was attracted to Wind River for its advanced Java support on non-Java processors. The licensing agreement with Patriot Scientific underscores our commitment to customers looking to deliver products utilizing Java in embedded applications,'' Sheaffer continued. ''As the industry leader, we are pleased to offer our customers -- in the consumer space and beyond -- continuous innovation for the efficient development of real-time embedded Java applications.''

Japan's Venture SystemLSI Assist Center (VSAC), which has licensed the PSC1000A Java microprocessor core for its library of semiconductor cores. This was one of VSAC's first selections, recognizing the huge potential in the Java-powered Internet appliances market. The agreement with VSAC, which is part of Japan's Electronics Industry Association and funded by the Japanese government, allows small- and medium-size Japanese electronics companies to design and build prototype integrated circuits utilizing the PSC1000A core without incurring up-front license fees. Japanese companies working with VSAC and using the PSC1000A core in their prototype designs will pay license fees and per-chip royalties to Patriot when they enter volume production. Patriot is providing VSAC with both hard and soft cores from the PSC1000A. Hard cores have hand-packed, optimized designs, making them extremely efficient in both size and performance. Soft cores, on the other hand, offer a great deal of flexibility in design and simulation.


Patriot distributors include Real Vision in Japan, Ineltek in Germany, and Pantek Technology in Taiwan.


Agranat Systems, which has ported its highly regarded Web server technology directly to Patriot's PSC1000 microprocessor. Agranat's EmWeb is the industry's leading embedded Web server and development architecture. Direct porting of the Web server software to the microprocessor eliminates the license cost and memory requirements of using a real-time operating system (RTOS), making this one of the lowest-cost embedded Web server hardware and software combinations on the market today. For customers requiring an RTOS in their applications, the EmWeb software can also run on top of Wind River's VxWorks RTOS, which has also been ported to the PSC1000.

Espial Group, Inc., in which that company's innovative software for EmbeddedJava and PersonalJava, including its industry-leading Java Web browser, will be driven by Patriot's powerful PSC1000.

Patriot distributors

Patriot distributors include Real Vision in Japan, Ineltek in Germany and Austria, Pantek Technology in Taiwan, Integrated Electronics in Finland, Microtronics in Southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia), Iridium Data in Israel and Acetronix in Korea.

Some information provided herein has been excerpted from Patriot Scientific's Web site. PSC1000 is a trademark of Patriot Scientific Corp. Any other brands and products mentioned are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners. The PSC1000 Microprocessor is covered by U.S. patent number 5440749, issued August 8, 1995. Other U.S. and foreign patents pending.

About the author

Rick B. Slack's primary background has been in support roles in the aerospace industry, including assignments on the Trident missile system, space shuttle, and various satellite programs, as well as work on infrared detectors/sensors for various platforms. He also does business consulting, and research of up-and-coming technologies.



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