Two Guys Arguing

Norvig Wants To Know

Posted in hardware by youngnh on 03.03.09

Peter Norvig, the Director of Research at Google and all-around AI guru, has an article floating around on the interwebs which you may have heard of: Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years.  As near as I can tell, I’m in year 6 of 10 and intensely interested in knowing how I rank among my peers.  Norvig asks a handful of questions that a programmer should know about the hardware he’s working on.  As I am also mildly interested in world-domination, I’d add that each of these should be answered for every programmable processor currently available to you, I’m just trying to get a tally on the current and future hardware costs something like world-domination is going to incur.

  1. How long does it take for your processor to execute an instruction?
  2. How long does it take for your processor to fetch a word from memory with a:
    1. cache hit
    2. cache miss
  3. How long does it take to read consecutive words from your hard disk?
  4. How long does it take to seek a new location on your hard disk?

I think that a inventory of currently available programmable platforms and the answers to these questions for each should be a good baseline for discussing how to write kick-ass programs that run as fast they possibly can.

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