China Computer Federation - Sister Society Associate Partner
By David Alan Grier, IEEE Computer Society Past-President
Not that long ago, I made the Founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman, mad at me. At the time, I thought it was quite an accomplishment as I had never met Mr. Stallman and was fairly certain that he had never heard of me. To be honest, the controversy between us is of small consequence. Should we meet in the future, we will not be likely to exchange blows. However, the controversy between us was a reminder that the software world remains divided between those who believe that software should be free and those who consider it to be a commercial product.
The ability to dynamically reconfigure hardware is an idea with powerful possibilities, but it's a concept that has been difficult to implement. Reconfigurability can be implemented in various ad hoc ways as well as with field programmable gate arrays (FPGA) and coarse-grained reconfigurable arrays (CGRA). These chips provide substantial computing resources with a tremendous number of logic gates and memory blocks, thus providing alternatives to traditional general-purpose central processing units (CPUs) and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Rapid advances in semiconductor technology have made it possible to implement even more complex processing elements using reconfigurable logic, including FPGA-based system-on-a-chip (SoC) designs.