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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A computer capable of exchanging processing elements for time


With the advent of LSI technology large numbers of inexpensive processors have become available, yet our ability to realize the full potential of this technology has fallen short. A primary reason for this failure has been due to an inability to move beyond the sequential control structure of conventional programming languages. The notion of a sequential and/or centralized control for a machine composed of large numbers of processing elements severely restricts the design and complexity of possible computer architectures. We claim that data flow languages (i.e., languages in which the execution of statements is constrained only by the availability of the required operants) provide an alternative base machine language more suited to a technology (such as LSI) which favors distributed processing.

The objective of the proposed research is to formulate and evaluate (by simulation) a machine whose design is based on a new technique of interpreting existing data flow languages. The most significant and distinguishing aspect of this new scheme of interpretation is that it permits a literal exchange of processing elements for computation time, in a very general and mechanical way. An architecture based on the new interpreter will allow a computation to unfold and spread dynamically over a space of processing elements. The machine also has the capability of partitioning itself into disjoining domains of activity, each domain corresponding to the execution of a distinct process.

When the proposed research is carried out, we will have shown that processing elements (space) can be exchanged for time, and that this makes possible a computer organization capable of effectively utilizing large number of processors.

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