The Server Room – Episode 25 – Arm Chips, RockPro64 , and ARM Development boxes

ARM Chips, RockPro64 , and ARM Development boxes

We talked about ARM Chips and architecture back in other episodes when We talked about Single Board computers at Episode 03.

Today I want to talk about two ARM based devices I came across one laptop and one desktop.

Lets look at ARMs History first

The British computer manufacturer Acorn Computers first developed the Acorn RISC Machine architecture (ARM) in the 1980s to use in its personal computers. Its first ARM-based products were co-processor modules for the MOS Technology 6502 based BBC Micro series of computers

The official Acorn RISC Machine project started in October 1983. They called it ARM2. They chose VLSI Technology as the silicon partner, as they were a source of ROMs and custom chips for Acorn. Wilson and Furber led the design. They implemented it with efficiency principles similar to the 6502.[23] A key design goal was achieving low-latency input/output (interrupt) handling like the 6502. The 6502’s memory access architecture had let developers produce fast machines without costly direct memory access (DMA) hardware

Acorn computers itself has a rich and troubled history worth reading up on it on its own or even watching the BBC movie – Micro Men . I linked in the shownotes on Youtube.
Also can read more in detail of ARMs history using the links in the shownotes.

The Next major step forward into success for ARM is when Apple and Acorn began to collaborate on developing the ARM, and it was decided that this would be best achieved by a separate company.

The bulk of the Advanced Research and Development section of Acorn that had developed the ARM CPU formed the basis of ARM Ltd. when that company was spun off in November 1990. Which is the ARM of We more familiar with

Both its 32bit and 64bit ARM CPUs have a wide variety of support in Operating Systems (Embeeded, Mobile OS, Desktop OS, Server OS)

Pinebook Pro – The Laptop for Linux and BSD

The Laptop is one of the cheapest ones You can find the 199$ Pinebook Pro which uses the RockPro64 Single Board Computer (SBC)

Socionext SyncQuacer – An Expandable and Powerful Desktop Computer – Aka Raspberry Pi on Steroids

ARM Vs The Competition and Where and Why ARM is a threat to Intel and x86

While ARM CPUs first appeared in the Acorn Archimedes, a desktop computer, today’s systems include mostly embedded systems, including all types of phones. Systems, like iPhone and Android smartphones, frequently include many chips, from many different providers, that include one or more licensed Arm cores, in addition to those in the main Arm-based processor. Arm’s core designs are also used in chips that support all the most common network-related technologies.

Processors based on designs licensed from Arm, or designed by licensees of one of the ARM instruction set architectures, are used in all classes of computing devices (including in space). Examples of use of those processors range from the world’s smallest computer, to smartphoneslaptopsservers and to the processors in supercomputers on the TOP500 list, including the most energy-efficient one on the list. Processors designed by Arm or by Arm licensees are used as microcontrollers in embedded systems, including real-time safety systems. Arm’s Mali line of graphics processing units (GPU) is the third most popular GPU in mobile devices. A recent addition to their lineup are AI accelerator chips for neural network processing.

Arm’s main CPU competitors in servers include Intel and AMD.[Intel competed with Arm-based chips in mobile, but Arm no longer has any competition in that space to speak of (however, vendors of actual Arm-based chips compete within that space). Arm’s main GPU competitors include mobile GPUs from Imagination Technologies (PowerVR), Qualcomm (Adreno) and increasingly Nvidia and Intel. Despite competing within GPUs, Qualcomm and Nvidia have combined their GPUs with Arm-licensed CPUs.

ARM CPUs/Architecture definetly has the edge in Embedded Systems and Power Efficiency

Apple is also thinking about switching a Third time its Software stack to a different Architecture ARM in this case

(Motorola 68k – IBM PowerPC – Intel – ARM)

Pre- 1994 – Motorola 68k based CPUs

1994 – Transition to PowerPC ( starting with the Power Macintosh 6100 )

2005 – Transition to Intel begins ( starting with the Macbook Pro and Imac from the same year)

2021 – Apple plans to sell Macs with its own chips.

Can it be a direct shift to ARM architecture, perhaps an Apple customised ARM Chips?

ARM and Apple had met in the past when Acorn Computers and Apple created ARM Ltd. in 1990 as mentioned and also Apple Used ARM chip for its Apple Newton (( ARM 610 RISC )) which many looks at as the predecessor of modern iPads

In 1999 Apples stakes in ARM lowered to around 14%

As of today the amount of % of Apples shareholding in ARM Ltd is not exactly known , I couldnt google it up .. but Apple predicts to switch to ARM CPUs will reduce its CPU costs around 40 – 60% which makes me believe they still have to have some stock in ARM Ltd. I might be wrong however.

Links (Common Desktop Environment) on NetBSD ebvarm Pinebook – Micro Men

Server Links of ARM and Other on Cavium ThunderX System on a Chip from Semihalf

ARM Server from Gigabyte very expensive for me: (R270 AND R120 )

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