Thoughts on CDixon’s What’s Next in Computing Piece

Kumar Thangudu

February 21, 2016

I follow Cdixon on Twitter. He’s an investor at A16Z. I wanted to

I’ve been reading his post What’s Next in Computing. and figured it was worth adding something about the nature of EDA’s open source progress. The piece is worth a sit down and read.

He makes a good key point that I wanted to expand upon.

Moore’s Law and SOCs.

“We are now entering an era in which processors and sensors are getting so small and cheap that there will be many more computers than there are people.

There are two reasons for this. One is the steady progress of the semiconductor industry over the past 50 years (Moore’s law). The second is what Chris Anderson calls “the peace dividend of the smartphone war”: the runaway success of smartphones led to massive investments in processors and sensors. If you disassemble a modern drone, VR headset, or IoT devices, you’ll find mostly smartphone components.

In the modern semiconductor era, the focus has shifted from standalone CPUs to bundles of specialized chips known as systems-on-a-chip.”

The Next Generation of EDA

What I think is worthy of mention is the growth of Fabs, Foundries, open source software(SPICE etc..) and the ability of a small group of chip designers to produce mixed-signal chip fully functional prototypes in a package without spending $100K+ on EDA Software, of which there’s only 3 players: Cadence, Synopsys, and Mentor Graphics. I’ve met people on the r/chip_design subreddit who have created chips for actual products for basement prices. <$10K

I was part of company working in this space to change the way chips are designed. There’s one such company in the bay area producing 180nm Mixed Signal analog chips for less than $5K to get to silicon.

I believe EDA software is the blocking element. It lives in the stone age.

Version control, forking, etc.. and a lot of the paradigms of software design have not been given to the world of chip designers. They live as if in an anachronism and our chip design education is in the stone ages.

On a side note, Moore’s law is arguably a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s also worth adding that exponential growth doesn’t happen in the physical world, it happens on S-curves, like every other technology.

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