RISC-V is trying to start an open-hardware revolution

RISC implemented a revolution in small, efficient and low cost processors and helped to create our modern connected world. But in the intervening years, a handful of companies have come to dominate the processor landscape. If you need a chip for a new device, your only real option is to trust that you can find something close to what you want from somewhere like Texas Instruments or Renault. Completely designing a chip from scratch is a highly restricted complex and expensive, and some companies have the resources to do so.

One of the major limiting factors here is the basic processor code; Instruction package, or ISA. Creating a new ISA is a big endeavor, and some small chips like ARM and X86 dominate the landscape. What RISC-V does is test, functional ISA for anyone. ISA is designed to be modifiable, which can add functionality through “extensions”, allowing engineers to select and select the features they want.

Even with an ISA, designing a new processor is a big endeavor, but many companies that support the RISC-V program, including giants such as Western Digital, are bringing their chip designs out into the open, freeing others to modify or use them. . Or new companies can contract with a company like SiFive, which is a startup ordering custom RISC-V processors.

There are many more ways this project could go wrong – financial drought, development issues, security vulnerabilities, to name a few – but if it succeeds, RISC-V could help companies of all sizes reduce the cost of building a new chip and build exactly the processors they need. Watch our full video for more information.

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Veronica Tucker

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