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Friday, August 26, 2005

IBM, Toshiba & Sony Release Cell Details

IBM, Toshiba & Sony Release Cell Details

By: Richard Allen

Over 500 pages of documentation pertaining to the Cell processor as well as Cell discussion forums are now available on IBM's website. The Cell processor was jointly developed by Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony, Toshiba and IBM. It will be featured in the Playstation 3 console and is to be used in a myriad of applications.

The controversial Cell processor takes a departure from standard processor designs. The CPU impliments several Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs) that work similar to Digital Signal Processors (DSP). The design is even more complex when you consider the processor does not accept out of order instructions. The Cell works in a manner that requires all instructions be in order. This explains why the CPU cache isn't that large, as in order instructions do not require as much indexing. Intel dropped the in order design when they moved to the Pentium series of processors.

All of these features will definitly make programmers lives more difficult, but in the end I believe the processor will find success. To view the documents and enter the forums, registration is required. Below is a quote from the overview of the literature.
"Cell architecture from 20,000 feet
A high-level description of the Cell Broadband Engine (CBE), the Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs), and how they work together.

Cell Broadband Engine Architecture V1.0
Like the Power Architecture, but different -- the CBE Architecture builds upon knowledge contained in the Power Architecture "books" and describes the app-level User Mode Environment (UME) and the OS-level Privileged Mode Environment (PME) in astonishingly rich detail.

Synergistic Processor Unit (SPU) Instruction Set Architecture V1.0
Somewhere between a general-purpose processor and special-purpose hardware lies the Cell SPU: designed to provide leadership performance in game, media, and broadband applications, this document describes the Application Binary Interface (ABI) of the Synergistic Processor Unit (SPU). Get to know all of its instructions.

SPU Application Binary Interface Specification V1.3
Including low-level system and language binding information, information on loading and linking, and coding examples, this specification defines the system interface for SPU-targeted object files to help ensure maximum binary portability across implementations.

SPU Assembly Language Specification V1.2
Unleash the full processing power of the SPUs -- you know you want to! This specification will prove an indispensable aid in your efforts as it takes you on a carefully-worded journey describing SPU assembly-level syntax and machine-dependent features for the GNU assembler (but serves as an example specification for other SPU assemblers as well).

SPU C/C++ Language Extensions V2.0
Describes the basic data types, operations on these data types, and directives and program controls required by the CBE specification; includes sample code.

Cell forum
Technical discussion of these documents is going on now at the Cell Architecture forum; comments and errata are welcome there also, or by e-mail to
Link: developerWorks : Cell Broadband Engine Documentation

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