The Slow Winter (PDF)
James Mickens reminisces about when hardware architecture was easy and fun in ;login: magazine:
Anything that you invented would be amazing, and the laws of physics were actively trying to help you succeed. Your friend would say, “I wish that we could predict branches more accurately,” and you’d think, “maybe we can leverage three bits of state per branch to implement a simple saturating counter,” and you’d laugh and declare that such a stupid scheme would never work, but then you’d test it and it would be 94% accurate, and the branches would wake up the next morning and read their newspapers and the headlines would say OUR WORLD HAS BEEN SET ON FIRE. You’d give your buddy a high-five and go celebrate at the bar, and then you’d think, “I wonder if we can make branch predictors even more accurate,” and the next day you’d start XOR’ing the branch’s PC address with a shift register containing the branch’s recent branching history, because in those days, you could XOR anything with anything and get something useful, and you test the new branch predictor, and now you’re up to 96% accuracy, and the branches call you on the phone and say OK, WE GET IT, YOU DO NOT LIKE BRANCHES, but the phone call goes to your voicemail because you’re too busy driving the speed boats and wearing the monocles that you purchased after your promotion at work.