The Chip Letter

The Chip Letter Substack delves into the history and evolution of computing technology, focusing on microprocessors, integrated circuits, and the impact of companies and architectures like Nvidia, Intel, ARM, and RISC-V. It covers historical developments, current technological innovations, industry strategies, and the pivotal role of specific technologies in the computing landscape.

History of Computing Microprocessors and Integrated Circuits Computing Industry Strategies Technological Innovations Computer Architecture Corporate Histories in Computing

The hottest Substack posts of The Chip Letter

And their main takeaways
3168 implied HN points 25 Feb 24
  1. Google developed the first Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) to accelerate machine learning tasks, marking a shift towards specialized hardware in the computing landscape.
  2. The TPU project at Google displayed the ability to rapidly innovate and deploy custom hardware at scale, showcasing a nimble approach towards development.
  3. Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) showcased significant cost and performance advantages in machine learning tasks, leading to widespread adoption within Google and demonstrating the importance of dedicated hardware in the field.
4224 implied HN points 18 Feb 24
  1. Designs that were not commercially successful can still be interesting and hold value for learning.
  2. Intel's 8085 microprocessor, while not a bad design, was overshadowed by Zilog's Z80 due to lack of major improvements.
  3. Signetics 2650 microprocessor faced limitations such as delayed time to market and segmented memory, showing the importance of timely releases and memory efficiency.
6548 implied HN points 11 Feb 24
  1. The newsletter is introducing 'Chiplets,' shorter and more varied posts for the readers.
  2. Readers have the option to opt-in to receive 'Chiplets' in their inbox to avoid filling it with too many emails.
  3. The 'Chiplets' will cover a mix of historical and current topics in a more informal and fun way, offering a new format for readers.
1689 implied HN points 15 Feb 24
  1. IBM has had a significant impact on the development of computer systems over 100 years.
  2. IBM's influence extends to technologies like mainframes, personal computers, and databases.
  3. The history of IBM shows both positive contributions to technology and darker aspects like the association with controversial events.
93 HN points 21 Feb 24
  1. Intel's first neural network chip, the 80170, achieved the theoretical intelligence level of a cockroach, showcasing a significant breakthrough in processing power.
  2. The Intel 80170 was an analog neural processor introduced in 1989, making it one of the first successful commercial neural network chips.
  3. Neural networks like the 80170 aren't programmed but trained like a dog, opening up unique applications for analyzing patterns and making predictions.
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8449 implied HN points 30 Dec 23
  1. The Chip Letter had 75 posts, over 500,000 views, and gained over 7,000 new subscribers in 2023.
  2. Highlighted posts included the story of Erlang at WhatsApp, the disappearance of minicomputers, and a celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Integrated Circuit.
  3. 2024 will bring posts on the history of microcontrollers, Moore's Law, the Motorola 6800, '8-bit', GPUs, TPUs, and more, with a 20% discount available for new annual subscriptions.
254 HN points 11 Feb 24
  1. Satya Nadella used an IBM AS/400 in 1993 for a technical demonstration, showing data transfer to Excel.
  2. The demonstration represents the technological shift from IBM to Microsoft over the years.
  3. The clip of Nadella's early demonstration highlights the evolution of technology and software, reflecting on the transfer of power between IBM and Microsoft.
210 HN points 04 Feb 24
  1. Understanding GPU compute architectures is crucial for maximizing their potential in machine learning and parallel computing.
  2. The complexity of GPU architectures stems from differences in terminology, architectural variations, legacy terminology, software abstractions, and specific dominance by CUDA.
  3. Examining the levels in GPU compute hardware - basic units, grouped units (Streaming Multiprocessor or Compute Unit), and final GPU architecture - reveals a high level of computational power compared to CPUs.
2323 implied HN points 24 Sep 23
  1. Nvidia's success is attributed to strategic management and positioning.
  2. There is a narrative suggesting Nvidia's success is partly due to luck in benefiting from the AI boom.
  3. Jensen Huang is credited for creating his own luck, but there is still debate over the fairness of this perception.
2746 implied HN points 01 Aug 23
  1. Nvidia is a major player in AI technology with a market cap over one trillion dollars.
  2. The longevity of technology moats like Intel's x86 and IBM's System/360 can provide insights into maintaining dominance in the industry.
  3. Comparing Nvidia's position with these examples can help understand the sustainability of its competitive advantage in the long term.
2534 implied HN points 25 Jul 23
  1. Intel announced APX, the next evolution of Intel architecture, with improvements in registers and performance
  2. The introduction of APX includes doubling the number of general purpose registers, new instructions, and enhancements for better performance
  3. Intel also revealed a new vector ISA, AVX10, to establish a common vector instruction set across all architectures
2112 implied HN points 18 Jul 23
  1. Arm has found a place in the biggest cloud at Amazon.
  2. The importance of power efficiency in datacenters favors Arm designs due to lower power consumption.
  3. Arm has faced challenges in entering the server market, with various attempts by partners falling short over the past decade.
3379 implied HN points 19 Mar 23
  1. Arm's success was built on strategic partnerships and a unique licensing business model.
  2. The development of Thumb instruction set allowed Arm to address code size and attract key customers like Nokia and TI.
  3. Arm's growth and financial stability were further solidified by partnerships with companies like Samsung and the creation of the StrongARM line.
2746 implied HN points 16 Apr 23
  1. Gordon Moore's notebooks from Fairchild provide a unique insight into his work and research in the early days of computing.
  2. Assembly language, especially 8-bit, was more popular and necessary in the past compared to modern 64-bit architectures.
  3. Nvidia's survival and success were closely tied to their alignment with Moore's Law in the GPU industry.
2746 implied HN points 19 Feb 23
  1. Acorn built a fast microcomputer called ARM but struggled to sell it, leading to Apple acquiring the technology and creating a separate company - ARM.
  2. The Acorn team focused on keeping manufacturing costs low for ARM, making it affordable and power-efficient compared to other designs at the time.
  3. The Archimedes, powered by ARM chips, received positive reviews for its speed and performance, offering a cost-effective alternative to other computers available.
1689 implied HN points 19 Mar 23
  1. The post discusses a book called 'Culture Won' by Keith Clarke, which details the success of Arm from a startup to a global technology phenomenon.
  2. The book offers insight into the business culture that contributed to Arm's success, making it a recommended read for those interested in startups and business culture.
  3. The post also includes links to interviews with ARM founders, executives, engineers, and a bonus clip featuring Steve Jobs on the Newton for paying subscribers.