“OK, Jeff,” I can imagine people saying, “enough about Revivio. How about SiCortex?” Well, now that I’ve been there a week, I’ll try to answer.

First off, the technology still seems way cool. 5832 processors in one system is still pretty awesome, even if they’re not the fastest processors on the planet. Having a really fast interconnect built right onto the chip is pretty neat too. Dolphin’s products were pretty good for their time – 1.6Gb/s full duplex in 1996, with 4.0Gb/s always right around the corner – but 2GB/s times three coming in plus the same going out makes that seem pretty wimpy. Depending on how you look at it, that’s either a 12x or a 30x improvement in ten years. Just for perspective, that’s about the same as CPU speeds going from 100MHz to 3GHz, or disk capacities going from 10GB to 300GB, and better than disk-interface speeds going from 160Mb/s to 4Gb/s – all changes which took about the same amount of time. It just so happens that the “fabric” is where I’ve spent most of my time so far, which is pretty exciting. There’s tremendous complexity there, but also tremendous opportunity to solve fun problems. I’ve turned notions of power efficiency and CPU/memory/communication balance over and over in my head, trying to find the fatal flaw in the reasoning behind the product, and I’m still pretty convinced we’re on the right track.

Another good thing about SiCortex is the people. In the past I’ve usually known as much as anyone around me about anything relevant to the product I’m working on, or at least been within a short conversation of that. Not so at SiCortex. The product is so complex and so advanced, and the people around me are such experts in fields where I’ve never even dabbled, that I have to accept that I’ll never understand something like they do. That’s a bit of an adjustment for someone who takes pride in breadth of knowledge and experience. I’ve often said, though, that if I’m not a little bit intimidated then I’m probably not challenging myself enough. Another thing that helps is that everyone so far has been really nice. Sometimes it seems that as expertise increases so do aloofness and arrogance, becoming almost intolerable well below the technical level these guys are at, but so far everyone from the CEO on down has literally gone out of their way to include me and make me feel welcome and help me get up to speed. I’ve actually noticed the same thing in a few other “big names” (which I won’t drop) in the field, so I wonder whether the real top-flight techies sort of get “over the summit” attitude-wise and mellow out. Maybe I’ll get there some day. ;)

Here are some other random notes.

  • The commute isn’t bothering me so far. It’s almost exactly a half-marathon away, not that I ever intend to run it, which means about 20-30 minutes each way. I’d been spoiled by the ten-minute commute to Revivio, but the route’s almost scenic and I don’t mind listening to the radio a bit more.
  • The cafeteria downstairs is very impressive, and of course convenient. The prices are on the high side, though, probably higher than the local sandwich shops and such.
  • Speaking of local sandwich shops, I remember when downtown Maynard seemed almost totally deserted. Now it’s quite lively, with a lot of restaurants and shops and people (a high percentage of whom seem to be 20-something techies from Clock Tower Place) roaming around.
  • Speaking of Clock Tower Place, it’s an amazingly funky place. I’d heard the stories about walkways and tunnels between buildings, and floors that don’t match up, and little hidden routes, and they’re all true. I already found one route from Building Three to Building Five (nipping through a corner of Building Four) that involves a very narrow and well-hidden stairway and makes me feel like a kid exploring secret passages. The downside of a space like this is the noise. I don’t know what those people upstairs from us do, but there are some truly amazing thuds at times. I hope nobody has been hurt.

That’s all I can think of for now. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as time goes by.