DSP Shatters The Speed Barrier
-- by David Gabel
DSP technology, which drives applications ranging from communications to image processing, has been generating a lot of buzz for quite some time. Now Texas Instruments, which sells more digital signal processors-programmable microprocessors designed to perform specific numerical computation tasks-than any other vendor, is radically upping the ante. While most DSPs operate at about 100 million instructions per second, the new TMS3206x DSP Generation will run at 1.6 billion instructions per second, TI claims.
This means, for example, that a cellular base station, now the size of a large toolshed, could shrink to shoe-box size. At that point, base stations could be installed atop traffic lights, vastly increasing the availability of phone cells and improving transmission dramatically. One of these new DSPs could handle the data-pump chores of up to 15 V.34 modems; today, you need one per modem. Heavy-duty users could replace racks of equipment with cheaper, much smaller modems.
The chip's architecture plays a key role in the speed increase. It uses advanced VLIW (very long instruction word) architecture to process instructions and data in 256-bit chunks,
under the control of a 200MHz clock. Yet because of the restricted nature of DSP tasks, it can do the work with only 550,000 logic transistors, compared with a Pentium's 5 million. Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media Inc.