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Sun sees magic in details of MAJC chip

August 19, 1999
Web posted at: 4:14 p.m. EDT (2014 GMT)

by James Niccolai


(IDG) -- Sun Microsystems has fleshed out some technical details for its Microprocessor Architecture for Java Computing (MAJC), which it hopes will be used to power a new class of networked appliances for accessing music, video, and other media-rich content from the Internet.

To meet the needs of a high-volume consumer market, MAJC (pronounced "magic") was designed to deliver solid performance at a low cost, and to run a range of devices, including gaming machines, TV set-top boxes, and telephones with small video screens.
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Not surprisingly, MAJC was also designed to make light work of programs written in Sun's Java programming language, which the company is pushing hard to become the underlying platform for applications and services delivered over the Internet. MAJC can also run programs written in C and C++, Sun said.

Chips based on the MAJC architecture will be able to process complex graphics and voice data, and compute at very high clock rates in networked environments, according to Sun. The company has said it will make chips based on MAJC itself, and will also likely license the architecture to third-party chip makers.

Sun unveiled a few design features of the MAJC at the Hot Chips forum in Palo Alto, Calif., an annual symposium where some of the brightest semiconductor engineers gather each year to discuss the latest advances in silicon. The presentations are mostly arcane and focus on the minutiae of chip design.

The MAJC architecture was designed to allow more than one processor to be squeezed on the surface of one silicon chip, Sun said. The design draws from digital signal processor and very long instruction word architectures to improve the handling of "natural data types" -- or digitized analog sounds such as voice or video.

Chips built around the architecture will be able to execute four instructions in parallel, allowing data to be processed more efficiently, Sun said.

Sun disclosed its plans to develop MAJC earlier this month. The company has been working on the architecture for about four years, it said.

Copies of Chief Architect Marc Tremblay's Hot Chips presentation on the MAJC architecture will be available on the Internet beginning Aug. 18, Sun said. The company will disclose the first actual processor based on the architecture, which will be used to boost the capabilities of a Sun workstation, at the Microprocessor Forum in October in San Jose, Calif.

James Niccolai is a U.S. correspondent for the IDG News Service in San Francisco.

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Marc Tremblay's Hot Chips presentation on the MAJC architecture
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
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