back to article India shows off new home-grown CPU – but at 100MHz, 32-bit and 180nm, it’s a bit of a clunker

India has taken another small step towards silicon-self-sufficiency with the unveiling of a new domestically designed system-on-chip. But the microprocessor is a few generations behind best practice and won’t set the world on fire. Progress has, however, been rapid: India announced a competition to encourage the use of export- …

  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    From linked Reg article:

    "We're told Shakti has been taped out and fabricated at 180nm by the Indian government's Semi-conductor Laboratory in Chandigarh, and at 22nm by Intel's foundry. "

    - in case anyone else was wondering.

    I don't know too much about chip foundries... could India buy second hand kit from Intel et al that was once used for commercial 48nm (or whatever) chip manufacture? Is uprooting a production line even worthwhile?

    Also, I'm a bit fuzzy about India's motivation here - is it to give experience to budding silicon chip designers, ensure a trusted chip supply chain for national security purposes, or a combination of the two?

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: From linked Reg article:

      India has 3 reasons:

      1) China

      2) China

      3) China

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: From linked Reg article:

        I would have said "America". Or, more accurately, "Trump".

        Trump's trade war economic terrorism has made other nations wake up to the fact that, when they are reliant on foreign countries who can impose sanctions and cut off supplies, their sovereignty is mostly imaginary.

        In taking, what used to be merely coercive threats to invoke consequences if they don't play ball, to the next level, it has forced countries to address what will happen when they fall victim to US sanctions, having supplies cut off, or their economies disrupted.

        Trump's strategy is deeply flawed; it will ultimately have the US losing what coercive pressure it has.

        1. Zolko
          Mushroom

          Re: From linked Reg article:

          "what used to be merely coercive threats to invoke consequences if they don't play ball"

          it's like the atomic bomb deterrent: it's useful only as long as you don't use it, and you can only use it once. Icon, obviously

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          " what used to be merely coercive threats to invoke consequences if they don't play ball,"

          The word you are searching for (or perhaps trying to avoid using) is bullying

          As in the sentence "Trump is a bully"

          It's not a strategy with Trump.It's a lifestyle. It's what he does, what he knows and what he likes.

          He seems like an aging, petulant, prep school Ahole with a sense of entitlement well over anything that his actual achievements warrant.

          He is.

        3. matthayichen

          Re: From linked Reg article:

          You have got it completely and utterly wrong. The US is not a threat to India nor is it perceived as such in India (except by ultra crazy lefties who haven't given up on their traditional unrequited love for China despite its thriving capitalism). China has been encroaching on Indian Himalayan territory in Ladakh across from Tibet. China has taken over the Indian market. China lays claim to other ethnic Tibeto-Burmese inhabited territories in India like Arunachal Pradesh. China is an expansionist fascist autocracy that treats conquered minorities like sh!t.

          The aims of Trump and India are pretty much the same. Stop China from dominating which has proven disastrous as any of its neighbors will tell you. The loss of local manufacturing capability is the US's main worry, and the shift of manufacturing from the US to China is equally alarming for India when the latter is an actual threat to its security. India relies on the US as an ally to contain China, but if everything is produced in China that is a big problem.

          "Make in India" is squarely aimed at China, absolutely no one else.

    2. thames

      Re: From linked Reg article:

      India want to develop their high tech industry, and giving their designers practice in designing chips is important in developing the sort of talent pool required to create a self-sustaining hardware industry.

      They have an over-arching development program called "Make in India", encompassing a wide range of sectors, everything including automobiles, mining, electronics, IT (of course), pharmaceuticals, space, electric power, and many others.

      The policy for the electronic sector is called the "National Policy on Electronics (NPE) 2019", and follows on the NPE 2012. Here's a direct quote from their website describing the scope "The Electronics System Design & Manufacturing (ESDM) industry includes electronic hardware products and components relating to information technology (IT), office automation, telecom, consumer electronics, aviation, aerospace, defence, solar photovoltaic, nano electronics and medical electronics. The industry also includes design-related activities such as product designing, chip designing, Very Large-Scale Integration (VLSI), board designing and embedded systems."

      The main competitor for their new RISC-V chip will of course be ARM, and especially the Taiwanese and South Korean chip fabs which seem to make everything for everyone. However, as I understand it they are less concerned at this point about developing a chip which is competitive in performance, and more concerned about developing skills and a pool of talent which can be applied to other commercial projects, even if the actual chips are made elsewhere.

      There is a political and diplomatic aspect to all of this as well. Ultimately India want to establish themselves as a world power and don't want to be dependent upon anyone. The US are as least as much of a threat as China in this respect, perhaps even more so given the US proclivity for weaponising the supply chain through indirect control of foreign companies and financial payments systems. For example see India's participation in the BRICS payment system (in cooperation with China among others) which has the explicit goal of reducing dependence on US dollar clearing in response to this.

      To make a long story short, India have detailed long term ambitions to make themselves a world power and to not be beholden to any other nation from east or west. This is an ambition that spans multiple decades. As part of this however they have picked electronics as a key industry to develop capability in.

  2. UCAP

    You have to start somewhere ...

    ... and India have sensibly tried to build something that is technologically easy to master. This is a very sensible approach. I'd bet that the next few years will see them progressively raise the technology bar until Nvidia, Intel, et al do start to worry.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: You have to start somewhere ...

      ... And at least they still own it rather than flogging it off to Softbank, Nvidia or something. I mean that would be crazy.

    2. stiine Silver badge

      Re: You have to start somewhere ...

      If only 1 of every 50k Indians can do things like this, remember that's still over 27 thousand people.

  3. 45RPM

    Don’t forget that there was a time when we, in the UK, scoffed at those funny Asian car manufacturers. Honda, Hyundai, Suzuki, Kia - they could never challenge our mighty car industry, not on volume and certainly not on quality.

    Whoops. Still, at least we still have Morgan.

    1. Danny 14

      Datsun was still better than British Leyland.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Not exactly a high bar. BL was like the Lada of the UK car industry. But yes, Datsun by a wide, wide margin.

    2. StrangerHereMyself

      No one ever praised British cars for their quality.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge
        Go

        "Still, at least we still have Morgan"

        AC (yes they are still going)

        Arash

        Ariel

        Aston Martin

        BAC

        Bowler

        Caterham

        David Brown

        Ginetta

        Grinnal

        JLR

        Keating

        McClaten

        MEV

        Metrocab

        Nobel

        Ovik

        Perrin

        Radical

        Riversimple

        Rolls Royce

        Ronart

        Ultima (one of the fastest road cars in the world)

        Westfield

        Zenos.

        Then there are all the F1, Rally and NASCAR (sorry yanks, most are made in the UK).

        A few of these may be foreign owned, but all are based in the UK.

        We may be out of it when it comes to generic jelly moulds, but we still make some if the best of the world.

        1. StrangerHereMyself

          I read Arash as "trash" which is the first thing that came to mind.

        2. ICL1900-G3

          I bet VW are shitting themselves.

        3. Steve Todd Silver badge

          And how many of those

          Are still british owned, and building in quality?

    3. RM Myers Silver badge

      Wait, Honda is an Asian car manufacturer? What is that big ass manufacturing plant about a half hour drive from my house with all the Honda signs?

      Yes, I realize they are headquartered in Japan. There is a reason for the 6 - 8 families in my neighborhood whose first language is Japanese. But the reality is that Honda is an international company with plants all over the world, as are most of the large car manufacturers.

      1. 45RPM

        It is now - but, back in the seventies when they were just getting a foothold in our market and British Leyland was the largest vehicle manufacturer in the world (I think), they were a) very much Japanese, and b) not taken seriously as a car manufacturer. They were merely purveyors of funny little motorcycles.

        My point being that this Indian 'clunker' of a processor could grow into the super-chip of tomorrow…

      2. kwhitefoot
        Unhappy

        If you mean the Honda plant in Swindon then that will close next year: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/18616711.expert-swindon-better-placed-weather-impact-honda-closure-towns/

  4. osakajin Bronze badge

    How long before English people are knocking on the door of India asking for immigration?

    1. StrangerHereMyself

      When they get indoor plumming?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When they get indoor plumming?

        I prefer to keep my fruit trees outdoors. Should I move to India?

        1. RM Myers Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: When they get indoor plumming?

          What a plum crazy idea.

  5. DROP DATABASE

    256 pin CQFP package.. strange choice for a Arduino / hobbyist friendly chip

    1. _LC_ Silver badge

      When was the last time you did something in the embedded sector?

      Today, they all come on boards - typically with a USB-port in the least. Look for “ARM Blue Pill” on AliExpress ($1.5).

      Here's a picture:

      https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/26856618/33531361-173def5e-d841-11e7-8e86-9f3f65a89f52.png

      1. _randomandy_

        Q: When was the last time you did something in the embedded sector?

        A: About 15 minutes ago (the last 15 have been used to drink coffee and real El Reg) and for most of the last 25 years!

        The system I am currently working on uses a 32bit microcontroller (ARM Cortex-M3) running at 120MHz with the sole connectivity being Ethernet for the outside world and I2C for a bunch of sensors.

        There is, no doubt, a huge market for this in IoT type devices in an internal market as big as India.

        1. _LC_ Silver badge

          Re: Q: When was the last time you did something in the embedded sector?

          Sorry, I'm not getting what you are trying to tell me. The commentator questioned the CQFP packaging. In which package does yours come - DIP?!?

    2. matthayichen

      Not really. The package doesn't matter when it already comes mounted on an Arduino form factor.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will it address

    more than 640k of RAM?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Will it address

      Given the 32-bit architecture, I reckon the difficulties will come in at either 2Gb or 4Gb, depending on whether they're using signed integers or not.

      I can't imagine many embedded systems needing much RAM in any case, unless you decide to go down the frankly questionable route of trying to run a full-weight OS on it, in which case, may I point you in the direction of El Reg's regular Bork! Bork! Bork! articles...

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: Will it address

        I think the point is that the specs sound VERY much like 92-94 timeframe.

        But given the way that address translation usually works in x86, (well, worked fifteen years or more ago) the current limit on these things will likely have a MUCH lower limit than that, although I'm pretty sure it could (in theory) be extended to a full 64 bits (on a 32 bit processor).

        1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

          Re: Will it address

          Earlier than that. I had true 32-bit in my highly modded Amiga 2000 in 1989. Even ran full BSD as an alternate OS.

    2. Pirate Dave
      Pirate

      Re: Will it address

      Why would it? Nobody needs more than 640k...

  7. _LC_ Silver badge

    deleted

    .mistaken.

  8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    RISC-V Pi

    I am surprised Raspberry Pi haven't got into the RISC-V SBC game. They are members of the RISC-V Foundation and their associations with Broadcom and LowRisc has them ideally placed to deliver the first mass-produced RISC-V computer platform to a global market

    It would be the perfect opportunity to ride the RISC-V bandwagon and make a tidy profit. If it includes a credible GPU it might even out-sell their ARM-based Pi.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: RISC-V Pi

      Which RISCV soc can I buy with embedded GPU and Linux drivers in production quantities today?

    2. StrangerHereMyself

      Re: RISC-V Pi

      Because Eben Upton is a Broadcomm employee? Or is he financially independent now?

      1. Glen 1 Silver badge

        Re: RISC-V Pi

        I think its more that the Raspberry Pi foundation takes a pragmatic approach to openness.

        As in (paraphrased) "as open as we can be, but not minding some closed stuff where it makes sense".

        It was thanks to pressure from Eben et al, that the first set of open source graphics drivers for the Pi were released. (although it turns out they were just a shim for the onboard functions). These days we have full OpenGL ES 3.1 conformance through Mesa, with Vulcan incoming.

        Remember, the early prototypes for the Pi bore more of a resemblance to the Arduino Uno than the eventual Pi 1.

        Quote from Eben referring to toolchain assistance:

        "We believe that instruction-set diversity is important, and that open, free instruction set architectures are an important enabler for innovation. Our impression is that the hardware side of things is going pretty well. We think we can contribute on the software side, which is important if RISC-V is going to become a viable alternative for desktop general-purpose computing."

  9. Spoonsinger
    Coat

    Can it play C...

    Nope not going there.

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Can it play C...

      Awww. Did you just have a crisis of conscience?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can it play C...

      It'd be good enough for Doom, maybe Quake. Everything else is just flattery.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lemmings

    Hopefully, it can run my fav. Amiga game, Lemmings.

    Ah wait, it's not the same instruction set and it won't emulate it at this speed ! Fuck it !

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Lemmings

      Just replying because a poster below doesn't know how to use the Reply button.....

      Plus Atari were the better machine <dives for cover>

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Lemmings

        I'm curious to know why you think such about the Ataris (I'm assuming the ST line which competed with Amigas and were comparable specced). I recall the Amiga had a large number of custom chips to drive better graphics and sound support compared to the ST. Please elaborate.

        1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

          Re: Lemmings

          Charles, that goes back to the Amiga/Atari ST wars. Lord Almighty, the arguments were fierce. Me? Yes, I was something of an Amiga Evangelist, due to the hardware design. [Even spent a day with Jay Miner talking about it at the San Diego Zoo. Even met Misha.] Hell I was a SysOp on all four Amiga Forums, but started on mainframes back in 1970, so I knew what machine you liked/loved came down to a tribal thing. Like Ford versus Chevy trucks. Still fun watching the cross-court action, for certain definitions of 'fun.'

  11. Wolfclaw
    Thumb Up

    Screw Lemmings, can it play snake or pong ?

  12. keithpeter
    Windows

    Shakti were a good band...

    ...and that choice of name carries an interesting set of resonances.

  13. rajivdx

    Nothing to see here...

    This is a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. The Indian government might be beating its drum about a 'new' CPU they have developed - but this is certainly not the first time a new CPU has been developed in India or by an Indian. The Intel Pentium processor was developed by an Indian. I myself designed a 32 bit processor and implemented a scaled down 16bit version for my University project 24 years ago. It was implemented with off the shelf 74LS series TTL chips only on stacks of 5 vero boards (didn't have access to technology to make my own boards then) and ran at a blistering 1MHz. Even did an IDE for developing and debugging assembly code in Turbo Pascal - complete with single stepping, breakpoints and watchpoints. I had a friend who developed his own CPU cores in VHDL.

    So, in short it is an absolute embarrassment when the Indian government toots its own horn about this 'achievement'.

    1. StrangerHereMyself

      Re: Nothing to see here...

      That is because all the really good Indian engineers left for the U.S. long ago. The lefties can only rip-off an open source CPU and trump it as their own.

      The Indian government are completely clueless and hail this as a great leap forward, whilst the people at Intel and ARM are trying to hold back their laughs.

      1. matthayichen

        Re: Nothing to see here...

        India is not trying to compete with Intel or ARM and you are missing the point. India just had 20 soldiers killed by China in a Chinese encroachment across from Tibet. India's market is dominated by Chinese electronics. Is it so hard to put two and two together? It was okay when India relied on the US or Japan for microchips. But not okay when manufacturing has shifted and it is now an active enemy making them.

  14. Pirate Dave

    So

    I've forgotten the name, but didn't India develop (or try to develop) a low-powered, super-low-cost computer 15-20 years ago to give to school kids? Is that even still around?

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