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Communications of the ACM


Rewarded for RISC

John Hennessy and David Patterson

Credit: Richard Morgenstein

It was the early 1980s, and microprocessors were making the transition from laboratory curiosity to commercial product. To make them work, many computer scientists were trying to copy the same complex instructions used in mainframe computers. In fact, some wanted to expand those instructions, trying to get the buggy software of the era to work better.

However, two young professors had a different suggestion. "John and I come along and say absolutely the opposite. Not only should we not make it more complicated, we should make it even simpler," says David Patterson, who at the time was an assistant professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. "We weren't just criticizing the trend. We were making an argument that people thought was dangerous, and was just going to make software fail more."


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