The rise of mobile system design and the ARM ecosystem

“It’s interesting to think you have something in your hands that you don’t quite understand.” Don Dingee.jpeg

You could apply that sentiment to inventions throughout history. You could apply that sentiment to the future of IoT, in fact, as we stand on the threshold of something big, yet we’re not quite sure how it’s going to play out.

But in this case, that quotation applies to ARM’s microprocessor technology, circa early 1990s, and the dawn of the mobile era. The words—uttered with a undertone of awe—come from Don Dingee, an engineer and writer who cut his teeth in the semiconductor industry working for Motorola many decades ago.

Dingee was talking about a book he’s co-written with SemiWiki founder Daniel Nenni on the rise of the mobile revolution and the history of ARM and the ARM ecosystem.

“Low power and small form factor weren’t things ARM founders  set out to do,” Dingee, speaking from his rural Texas home near Austin, argues. But Robin Saxby, former ARM CEO, helped shine a light on the value proposition, according to Dingee.

“They knew they weren’t consuming a lot of power,” Dingee said. “It was an artifact of the design-and-build process, rather than an objective of the design.”

The book, “Mobile Unleashed: The Origin and Evolution of ARM Processors In Our Devices,” traces the rise of mobile electronics systems design through the lens of the ARM ecosystem. The ecosystem began forming more than a quarter century ago when a group of engineers tried to figure out how to make their particular variant of the RISC architecture work in an increasingly crowded desktop and embedded computing marketplace. And today their mutual successes in mobile development have transformed societies around the world.

Mobile Unleashed: The Origin and Evolution of ARM Processors In Our Devices,” is available in print or Kindle. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re both fascinated by history and interested in trying to pull some threads into the future.

Related stories:

--A Brief History of ARM: Part 1

--A Brief History of ARM: Part 2