[extropy-chat] Using Graphic controllers

Dan Clemmensen dgc at cox.net
Sun Apr 18 15:31:08 UTC 2004

David Lubkin wrote:

> Eugen Leitl wrote:
>> GPUs have a usually rather impressive memory bandwidth and good 
>> parallelism
>> (broad buses). On the minus side, they're still a von Neumann design (in
>> general terms), and the memory is expensive, hence limited to small
>> increments. They've peaked out on power density and power supply (demand
>> ramps up higher than power supply can provide, even capacitor-buffered).
> The term "von Neumann design" refers to the design outlined in his 
> paper "First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC."
> Nicholas Metropolis (who worked closely with von Neumann) wrote:
>> It is clear that the stored-program concept predates von Neumann's 
>> participation in the EDVAC design. That von Neumann is often given 
>> credit for this fundamental concept is likely due to the fact that he 
>> wrote a preliminary report which summarized the earlier work on the 
>> EDVAC design, including the stored-program concept. Von Neumann 
>> contributed significantly to the development of this concept, but to 
>> credit him with its invention is a historical error.
> Certainly Eckert and Mauchley ferociously disputed von Neumann's 
> authorship.
> My father's version was that my grandfather (Samuel), who had a 
> substantial role in inventing computers, said von Neumann was always 
> sniffing around, looking for something to take credit for. The actual 
> smart guys were more concerned with getting the work accomplished, and 
> ignored him.
> The truth is hard to come by. My grandfather was brilliant, tactless, 
> and a stickler for honesty. My father was the first two, but didn't 
> let the facts get in the way of telling a good story. I'm scrutinizing 
> Sam's papers for more insight into what actually transpired.
> In any event, the term "EDVAC design" is correct and "von Neumann 
> design" is not.
I disagree. The term "von Neumann design" is a technical term in general 
use. Whether or not we "should" use it is irrelevant: we do use it. Your 
argument is identical to an argument against using the term "America" to 
refer to the two continents in the western hemisphere. Amerigo Vespucci 
named the continents for himself on first widely published maps, and the 
name stuck. This is closely analogous to the situation you describe with 
the von Neumann paper.

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list