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John L Hennessy DL Author Profile link

United States – 2017

For pioneering a systematic, quantitative approach to the design and evaluation of computer architectures with enduring impact on the microprocessor industry.

John Hennessy and David Patterson created a systematic and quantitative approach to designing faster, lower power, and reduced complexity microprocessors. Their approach led to lasting and repeatable principles that generations of architects have used for many projects in academia and industry. The impact has been stunning: many tens of billions of processors use reduced complexity architectures. In particular, the ARM processor, which powers nearly all smart phones, was significantly influenced by Hennessy and Patterson's work.

Having learned from their applied work on the highly influential MIPS and RISC processors at Stanford and UC Berkeley, respectively, Hennessy and Patterson expressed their approach to design using a parameterized architecture they named DLX.  With it, they provided an intellectually simple, robust, and quantitative framework for evaluating integrated systems.

Their insights into integration proved paradigm-shifting in key ways.  For example, they guided designers to carefully optimize their systems to allow for the differing costs of memory and computation.  Their work also enabled a shift from seeking raw performance to designing architectures that offered the correct balance of the elements that are placed on a single chip, to address issues such as power consumption, heat dissipation, and off-chip communication.

Hennessy and Patterson codified their insights in a very influential book, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, reaching generations of engineers and scientists who have adopted and further developed their ideas. Indeed, their work underpins our ability to model and analyze the architectures of new processors, greatly accelerating advances in microprocessor design.

Attesting to the power unleashed by Hennessy and Patterson's work and their impact is Bill Gates' assessment that their contributions "have proven to be fundamental to the very foundation upon which an entire industry flourished."

For creating a principled, scientific framework for designing computer architectures, and for the paradigm-shifting nature of their work, Hennessy and Patterson have been selected to receive the singular recognition conferred by the Turing Award.

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