The BBVA Foundation honors John Hennessy and David Patterson, the parents of current processors


Updated:10/02/2021 15:03h


The BBVA Foundation has awarded the Frontiers of Knowledge award in Information and Communication Technologies, now in its thirteenth edition, to the scientists John Hennessy (Stanford University) and David Patterson (University of California at Berkeley) for founding as a new scientific area computer architecture, the discipline in charge of designing the “brain” of any computer system: the central processor.

“Professors Hennessy and Patterson are synonymous with the creation and formalization of computer architecture,” says the award minutes. “Before his work, the design of computers – and in particular the measurement of their performance – was more of an art than a science, and professionals lacked applicable principles for their conceptualization and evaluation. Patterson and Hennessy built for the first time a conceptual framework that provided the field with a solid approach to measure the performance, energy efficiency and complexity of a computer “, they complete from the BBVA Foundation.

In addition to their contributions to computer architecture as researchers and educators, Hennesy and Patterson, working side by side, have driven technological innovation and business development with their ideas. Specifically, the winners created in the early eighties RISC, which is the architecture on which the design of the central processors is based. A technology that today is present “at the heart of practically all data center servers, desktops, laptops, smartphones and embedded computers (in televisions, cars and Internet of Things devices)”, according to highlights the minutes.

RISC are a simple set of instructions. The alternative was the complex set of instructions. The advantage was that he could read the instructions faster as they were simpler monosyllabic instructions, but more of them had to be read, unlike complex polysyllabic instructions. They were found to be able to be read much faster, RISC turned out to be roughly 4 times faster than CISC, hence its popularity and the fact that it is now everywhere, ”explains David Patterson in statements sent to ABC.

Hennessy, meanwhile, compares the operation of this system with the literature: «For example, think of an essay you are reading. Suppose the essay uses very complex words and convoluted sentence structures, it is difficult to read fast, you have to go very slowly, at a very slow pace. Now, imagine an essay that is written with clear words, simple words, a clean sentence structure, that can be read quickly. That’s what RISC does. “

The jury that has decided to recognize the work of the two scientists with this award, endowed with 400,000 euros, has been chaired by Joos Vandewalle, honorary president of the Royal Flemish Academy of Sciences and Arts of Belgium, who has had as secretary Ron Ho, director of silicon engineering at Facebook. The vowels have been Regina Barzilay, Delta Electronics Professor in the Department of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, United States); Georg Gottlob, Professor of Informatics at the University of Oxford (UK) and at the Vienna University of Technology (Austria); Oussama Khatib, Professor of Computer Science and director of the Robotics Laboratory at Stanford University (United States); Rudolf Kruse, Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Computer Science at the University of Magdeburg (Germany); Y Mario Piattini, Professor of Computer Languages ​​and Systems at the University of Castilla-La Mancha.

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