Who are the Computer Architects?

last updated: 21 December 1999

  1. Considerations about the list
  2. Supercomputer processors
  3. VLIW processors
  4. Independence architecture processors (Intel IA-64)
  5. Mainframe processors
  6. Minisupercomputer processors
  7. Minicomputer and Superminicomputer processors (16 and 32-bit)
  8. Workstation processors (32 and 64-bit)
  9. Wintel processors (16 and 32-bit)
  10. Multimedia processors
  11. Java processors
  12. Stack processors
  13. Embedded processors
  14. DSP processors
  15. Selected game processors
  16. Acknowledgements
  17. Revision history

Considerations about the list

I am publishing this list to identify recent processor architects and recognize their work.

As one architect told me, people outside the design circles (sometimes even meaning company executives) have bought into a myth: "in the '60's, Computer Architecture Giants Walked The Earth, and we pathetic lame-o descendants aren't fit to carry their slide rules." I agree that it is a myth. It shouldn't be the case that just Gene Amdahl, Gerrit Blaauw, Fred Brooks, John Cocke, Seymour Cray, and Mike Flynn are recognized as the giants in computer architecture and everyone else today is a midget. There are many tremendously gifted people at work in instruction set design and especially processor microarchitecture (cf. section 1.2 of Hennessy and Patterson, CA:AQA 2e).

The current format is a listing of an instruction set architecture (ISA) and its architect(s), followed by implementations of that ISA and the associated microarchitect(s)/designer(s). The processors I am listing have been available for sale commercially, and in most instances, I have categorized the processors by company. Although I may extend the list back into and before the 1970's, the current list mainly includes late 1980's and 1990's ISAs and microprocessor implementations. I especially want to highlight high-performance (superscalar and VLIW) implementations.

However, I approach this task recognizing several limitations of the list:

I would appreciate help in the form of your corrections, additions, and other suggestions. I am especially interested in published articles of these kinds:

I am also interested in URLs of web-published information.

Finally, I know of three excellent (although dated) books that describe the environment and decision-making constraints (i.e., politics) facing an architect:

I would greatly appreciate being able to list more literature of this type, especially something that would describe the current design environment in which ISA and processor architects must gather input from circuit designers, compiler writers, OS implementors, graphics software folks, database folks, benchmarking folks, etc.

Mark Smotherman

Supercomputer processors

... much more to do!


Control Data Corporation (CDC)






Texas Instruments

VLIW processors

... more to do!

See see multimedia processor section.

Apollo (see workstation processor section)

Culler Scientific Systems


FPS (Floating Point Systems)



Tera (see supercomputer processor section)

Texas Instruments

Independence architecture processors

Name due to Josh Fisher and Bob Rau. Explicitly encoded information on instruction independence is placed in the instruction format by the compiler. Difference from VLIW is that hardware does the scheduling. Example prototype is Burton Smith's Horizon processor. ... more to do!


Texas Instruments

Mainframe processors

to be done


Control Data Corporation (CDC)

Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)

General Electric (GE) / Honeywell Information Systems (HIS)

International Business Machines (IBM)


Minisupercomputer processors

... more to do!




Scientific Computer Systems




Minicomputer and Superminicomputer processors

... more to do!

Data General

Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)




Workstation processors

Includes 32-bit and 64-bit processors. Some of these were called supermicrocomputers in the 1980's.

Apple/IBM/Motorola PowerPC

AMD 29K (Advanced Micro Devices)



(The cover art for the February 1993 special issue of CACM on "Digital's Alpha Chip Project" has a 1967 FIA endurance racing Gulf Mirage M1 [a lightweight version of the Ford GT40, built by John Wyer's team] pictured for the DEC Alpha; however, it is incongruously drag racing. Was this some kind of inside joke?
... Two years later, Dick Sites writes in the Digital Tech. Journal [special 10th anniv. issue, 1995, pp. 5-6] that he'd like to see Alpha thought of as an express-delivery truck -- fast but "commonplace" -- rather than as a race car -- which is "blazingly fast, but not seen in your own neighborhood".)


"In the architecture stage, all of our work has always been done with teams, including hardware, software, and technology experts, often sitting side-by-side. At the heart of our principles is the synergy between the compiler and the hardware, with the compiler relied upon to help avoid hardware bottlenecks and critical paths, and the architectural hardware mechanisms developed to reduce stalls, delays, and critical paths in the code." -- from Joel Birnbaum's talk at 1997 Microprocessor Forum



(see also Apple/IBM/Motorola PowerPC above)



Motorola 68K/88K

National Semiconductor




Multimedia processors

... more to do!

Chromatic Research



Wintel processors

Because of large market, these are Intel x86 (IA-32) compatible processors. more...

AMD (Advanced Micro Devices)





Java processors

need intro...

Patriot Scientific Corp.


Sun JavaChips

Stack processors

The credit for collecting information in this section goes to Phil Koopman. He has found lots of designs but most with relatively low sales volume. Phil has a web page that points to current sales sources of stack processors.




Embedded processors

more to do... (Phil Koopman describes this market in his 1996 ICCD paper.)

AMD (Advanced Micro Devices)

ARM (Advanced RISC Machines, Ltd.)





National Semiconductor



DSP processors

to be done

Texas Instruments

Selected game processors

... more to do

Nintendo 64

Sony Playstation 2


My thanks to the following for their help in identifying some of the folks listed above and telling me about the projects in which they were involved: Don Alpert, Mitch Alsup, Steve Anderson, Pete Bannon, Allen Baum, Rich Belgard, Dave Bernstein, Mark Bluhm, Joel Boney, David Boreham, David Boundy, Henry Burkhardt III , Bob Colwell, Charlie Crabb, Jim Dehnert, Marvin Denman, Keith Diefendorff, John Edmondson, Dave Epstein, Alan Folmsbee, Philip Freidin, Robert Garner, Greg Grohoski, Mike Haertel, Andrew Haley, Jan Hoogerbrugge, Marty Hopkins, Gideon Intrater, Earl Killian, Phil Koopman, Ashok Kumar, Steven Kunkel, Dan Lau, Guy Lemieux, Richard Lethin, John Mashey, Shawn McLean, Avraham Menachem, Steve Morse, Steve Muchnick, Harm Munk, Michael O'Connor, Tim Olson, Howard Owens, Yale Patt, Dave Patterson, John Ruttenberg, Ulf Samuelsson, Ray Simar, Peter Song, Zalman Stern, H.W. Stockman, Bob Supnik, Ran Talmudi, Ross Towle, Nick Tredennick, Marc Tremblay, Stuart Tucker, Paul Walker, Uri Weiser, Turner Whitted, Sophie Wilson, Steve Wilson, Bill Worley, Mike Ziegler. (My apologies to these individuals for any misunderstandings on my part about the information they have graciously shared with me; the errors in the architects list above remain mine.)

Revision history

[History page] [Mark's homepage] [CPSC homepage] [Clemson Univ. homepage]