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PICO (Program In, Chip Out):
Automatically Designing Custom Computers

© 2002 IEEE, reprinted from IEEE Computer, vol. 35, no. 9, pp. 39-47, September 2002.

Vinod Kathail, Shail Aditya, Rob Schreiber, B. Ramakrisha (Bob) Rau, Darren Cronquist, and Mukund Sivaraman, all of the Compiler and Architecture Research Program in HP Labs.

The PICO (program in, chip out) project is a long-range research effort to automate the design of optimized, application-specific computing systems -- enabling rapid and cost-effective design of custom chips when no adequately specialized, off-the-shelf design is available. Although skeptics often assume that automated design must emulate human designers who invent new solutions to problems, PICO’s approach is to automatically pick the most suitable designs from a well-engineered space of designs. Such automation of embedded computer design promises an era of increasing growth in the number and variety of innovative smart products by lowering the barriers of design time, designer availability, and design cost.

Read the full paper here. Requires Adobe Acrobat.

About the authors:

Vinod Kathail is an R&D Program Manager in the Compiler and Architecture Research (CAR) Program, responsible for the PICO project. Kathail joined HP Labs in 1990 as a member of the team that was working on a new style of architecture, now known as EPIC. He co-invented some of the novel architectural concepts such as data speculation and a new instruction set for predicated execution. He co-authored the first publication that describes the core EPIC concepts and a research architecture based on these concepts.

Shail-Aditya Gupta is a senior research scientist at HP Labs and chief architect of the synthesis backend of
the PICO project, which includes the automatic
design and synthesis of custom VLIW processors as well as the automatic synthesis of custom, non-programmable loop accelerators. He was
instrumental in the research, design, and development of several key ideas and modules within the PICO infrastructure including the abstract architecture specification (archspec) and the detailed
architecture intermediate representation (AIR).

Rob Schreiber is a Principle Scientist at HP Labs, known for important basic research in sequential and parallel algorithms for matrix computation and in compiler optimization for data-parallel languages. He is a contributor to the Matlab scientific computing environment, and is a co-developer of the High Performance Fortran programming language. He has written over eighty scientific papers. He is on the editorial boards of three journals in the scientific and supercomputing fields, and is area editor for scientific computing of the Journal of the ACM.

B. Ramakrisha (Bob) Rau is an HP Fellow and director of the Compiler and Architecture Research (CAR) Program. Rau is a pioneer in the field of VLIW computing, having been active in this area since its inception in 1980. Many of the central architectural and compiler ideas in the VLIW and EPIC style of computing were conceived of and developed by him. In 1984, prior to joining HP, Rau co-founded Cydrome Inc. and was the Chief Architect of the Cydra 5 mini-supercomputer, one of the very first commercial VLIW products. He is an IEEE Fellow. He has fifteen patents and numerous research publications in the area of VLIW, EPIC, high-performance computing, and automated computer system design. He has also co-edited a book on instruction-level parallelism.

Darren Cronquist joined HP Labs in 1999 as a Software Design Engineer. His primary research interest is the design of new architectures, compilers, and languages that improve the cost/performance of embedded applications. At HP Labs, he has been working on the research and development of PICO, an architecture synthesis system for the automatic generation of custom hardware for embedded applications.

Mukund Sivaraman is an R&D engineer at HP Labs, currently involved in the PICO (Program In, Chip Out) project, whose goal is to develop a system that automatically designs custom computer systems for embedded applications. Prior to joining HP Labs, Mukund worked in the Integrated Circuits Business Division (ICBD) at HP from 1997 to 1999, where he developed timing and functional verification methodologies for ASIC design flows.

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