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6 Hardware/Software Codesign For Neo Smalltalk

Tuesday, 28 October – 12:00-12:45

Wednesday, 29 October – 16:00-16:45

Jecel Assumpção Jr., Merlintec Computadores Ltda., jecel@merlintec.com

The processors normally used for low cost or embedded applications are not well suited for running Smalltalk, so we created our own using programmable circuits (FPGAs). By creating the software and hardware specifically to work with each other it was possible to simplify both to such a degree that the resulting system is competitive in terms of price/performance compared to solutions with traditional processors, despite the inefficiency of FPGAs relative to custom designs. Both a 16 bit and a 32 bit hardware implementation of Neo Smalltalk will be shown in order to illustrate the cost and performance tradeoffs possible in this kind of development. The hardware is defined in terms of objects exchanging messages down to the lowest level, which is an interesting contrast to the traditional bytecoded virtual machines used for Smalltalk, Java and similar languages. Since the programming environment was designed to graphically show all implementation details, the audience will be able to see the issues mentioned above during a demonstration of the normal operation of the two Neo Smalltalk machines.