Framing It: 12.3.2019

A new computer form factor that’s old as dirt! World’s smartest man doomed to failure! Embedded Go! Never trust the AI autorouter!

Brian Benchoff
Dec 3, 2019 · 3 min read

Machine learning and PCB design

  • You knew it would come to this. Someone added AI to autorouters. DeepPCB is a new company that will take your unrouted (KiCad) board and add traces. It’s an AI autorouter.
  • DeepPCB takes a file generated by KiCad — just the board and nets, without any traces. Feed that into a GPU, and you get a finished board. It’s all sponsored by Nvidia. Does it work? We don’t know yet, because there are no examples of AI-routed boards.
A Raspberry Pi-based cyberdeck, built into a Pelican case.

Cyberdecks are dope

The latest trend in portable computation isn’t a phone, a tablet, or a microcontroller embedded in a pair of glasses. It’s a Cyberdeck! What’s a Cyberdeck? It’s taken directly from Neuromancer. It’s a computer that looks like it’s from the 80s and plugs into a TV, only it has more cyber. Cyber, by the way, means hidden, and it has meant hidden since before written language.

  • There are a few standouts in the field of Cyberdecks; Back7.co built a portable ‘lunchbox computer’ that’s meant to be a crash box for a network. Companies like Dolch were making similar computers back in the 90s for the same purpose.
  • Not everything is a lunchbox crash cart or a Pi shoved into a Timex Sinclair. A few people are planning to manufacture a palmtop or Ultra-mobile PC. The best looking one out there is the Pocket from Popcorn Computer. It’s a 5" display, keyboard, a few USB-C ports, and that’s about it. It also runs on the successor to the Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P., a SoC that’s effectively a Pi clone-on-a-chip.

Artificial General Intelligence

  • Now Carmack is on a new mission. He’s going to be working on artificial general intelligence. The goal of this field is to build Hal 9000 — a computer that’s just as smart as a human. It’ll pass a Turing test.
  • No one knows how to do this. No one knows how to define intelligence, and I’ve met real, actual people that can’t pass a Turing test. How’s this going to go? Well, we’re wishing Carmack the best.

Go for embedded programming

  • Microcontrollers are programmed in C, if you’re lucky. Yes, you can do Python or something sane if you want, but the vast majority of all embedded programming is in C.
  • Now there’s Go for embedded microcontrollers. Michał Derkacz built a Go compiler for (relatively) high-power STM32 microcontrollers. Why? For memory safety, probably. Maybe he wants a job at Google? Either way, all the libraries are here.

Supplyframe

Discussing the business of hardware and hardware manufacturing.

Brian Benchoff

Written by

Supplyframe

Discussing the business of hardware and hardware manufacturing.

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