So, how about the M1 then?


    Nov 22 2021 | 2:47 pm
    Well I heard yet another person tell me they plan to get an M1, so I guess I should say this all now. I was quiet a long time. I refused the $3K bonus when I quit working on Apple's CPUs if Id sign yet more non-disclosures up my eyeballs, and I still never said anything. Actually I didn't refuse the bonus because I ever planned to say anything, but when presented with an 80-page NDA for a $3k bonus to sign on leaving, after Id already signed one when joining, I just felt they must need money more than me, at the time the 'recession' was starting and frankly, being offered 3K to sign an exit NDA just seemed like an invitation to get sued. So I didn't sign it. Im told virtually everyone takes the money and runs--literally--they quit working in silicon valley at all. It isn't until later they find no one wants to hire an engineer who signed an 80-page exit NDA after working on Apple products. lol. I should've taken it, because at 48 I was already 20 years older than most silicon-valley engineers and I retired soon after anyway, but it does mean now I can take advantage of the silence I am not required to keep for a bleeding three thousand dollars.
    So here's what i have to say.
    I wouldnt bother with the M1, having been on its design team in 2008, I was its last and only ever white person in a group of 60 Taiwanese who'd been put together as a group after the parent company, Marvell, sold Apple the iPod microntroller. So I can pretty well tell you for sure the M1 is chicken shit, for technical reasons I'll explain later after sharing who designed the thing, which you won't hear from pretty well anyone else at all, because they are all Taiwanese (except one...). Basically the design group existed to get Asians who wanted to move to the USA green cards. The only experienced designer with a brain also quit, and he being 30 years younger than me went to AMD to design the bulldozer, because he was so fed up with Apple going on about how important low power is.
    I had wanted to work in this group because I'd got a call way back in 2006 that Steve Jobs had cancer, and I knew they needed some help, and naively thought they had a hope of finishing a CPU before SteveJ died. They had no desire to hire a white person and the group VP was really pissed when SteveJ called to greenlight me. It transpired they had no hope at all of getting a CPU done for Apple before SteveJ died. They didn't care. They make things take longer than necessary on purpose. I'm not at all surprised it took them 14 years to finish the M1.
    They are all very nice and beautiful people, the Taiwanese, but they just don't have the competitive drive to be alpha performers generally. So what happens is mavericks who really are top-notch designers get ostracized. There was a new kid straight out of college who was hired despite having no family in the group because he was actually good at it, and he went off in a corner to make a neural network by himself, because no one wanted to talk to him at all.
    The thing is, being Taiwanese they get preemptive favors at TSMC, a multibillion-dollar Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer with the only foundry capably of outperforming Intel's, which made its billions as the OEM for pretty well every DRAM chip seller for the last 15 years. That means they have the glitz of access to the latest and newest and fastest semiconductor processes, and are politically successful even if they have no idea at all how to design a digital circuit. With such assurance to future well-being, they just trudge on in a happy party together, totally oblivious to their massive incompetence. My manager never did a business plan in his life. He was Taoist and thought anything like 'planning' was something to flip off.
    There was one other person in the group who was not Taiwanese, he was Mongolian, and he was a total moron so all of them liked him. He was absolutely delighted to prove his engineering capability by getting a KVM switch working, and his pride and joy was to ask people into his cube to show off his accomplishment, pressing a button to show a different computer on his monitor. He'd married a Taiwanese girl who worked in accounting, well ok he was a really nice guy, I'm sure he was a great husband too, but frankly, his talents would hardly have enabled him to work on a cash register in a fast food outlet unless it had pictures on the buttons.
    That's how things run there. Nepotism and politics. It was a very depressing experience.
    So how about the specs then?
    Apple got what it wanted though, and the M1 is based on the ARM-9, which is the slowest public-domain CPU architecture because it was originally designed for Internet appliances like smart refrigerators. But its very low power at lower clock speeds, so it got chosen 11 years ago. By the time they cranked it up to 3.6GHz it really wasn't that much low power any more, but that's not how thing work at Apple. They chose a low-power ARM variant to put on the marketing slideshows, by which time SteveJ had heard from me what was going on and had given up hope himself of seeing anything from them. The fancy dancy suits with their fancy dancy slideshows had taken over where logic had left off.
    Putting aside the i9-choice, there is a generic problem for all ARM processors, and that is that they are not originally designed to run a native instruction set. Their design assumed they would be running code compiled for something else, so they have this abstraction layer between the compiled code and the actual machine code to run the instructions with a 'virtual instruction set.' That means they are hard pushed to be faster than the original CPU for which the code was written. Virtual instruction sets were greatly to the liking of the current Apple mindset because they don't need to recompile anything to run on it. The ARM CPU could even run things compiled for the PowerPC. So Apple likes that, even if it will never bother actually making the virtual layer for PowerPC, because it feels good that it could if it wanted.
    And Marvell liked it, because the netlists for the ARM CPUs are public domain, and they didn't have a hope of designing a CPU themselves. So they bought software to build the ARM CPU netlists on TSMC processes, and what the 'engineering team' mostly did was make Web forms for customers to request various configurations of the design automation software they'd bought.
    Yet even with the best automation tools, ARM CPUs are not something that are ever really going to compete performance-wise with native compiled code for AMD or Intel CPUs. The M1 currently competes with Intel because TSMC has a smaller and faster 7-nm process, and Intel is still on 10-nm. But that also means that the TSMS chips on the smaller and faster process are more expensive to make.
    Meanwhile Intel's finally got to asymmetric cores, which make so much sense. The 12700 looks ok, but its still on 10nm, and the thread scheduler is entirely new, so Id say wait until the next generation yet again. My 2015 i7-6700K base clock speed is STILL higher than the 12th generation. For OS operations, I remain to be convinced that a new CPU with 3.6 GHz base speed is faster than an older CPU with 4.1ghz base speed. I'd enjoy being convinced of it of course, but my skepticism remains.

    • Nov 22 2021 | 5:07 pm
      sure, but, dont you know? "it is the fastest we ever made!" :) meanwhile a group of people tries to convince mr. woz to help us run OS9 on power architecture processors with FGPA extensions which might replace everything what was formerly done by the PCI bus enviroment.
      so, long story short: different nerds, different follies. -110