It’s traditional at this time of year for members of Apple’s developer community to publish lists of the shiny new toys they hope Apple will announce at WWDC. I’ve been spending all my time writing, and now extensively revising, another blog post, so I haven’t made a list. But I do have one whimsical wish I’d like to commit to the internet before the keynote begins. Or at least before they get to the part of the keynote where they might announce it!

I was reading Chris Lattner’s tweets a while ago, and learned he started a new job at SiFive. That’s how I learned about the RISC-V instruction set architecture, which looks really cool! It was designed from the outset to scale from the smallest embedded controllers to massive, multi-core desktop and server chips. And because it’s not owned by a company, it’s free to use and developed openly.

I read the book that introduces RISC-V in 100 pages, and I’m impressed by the conciseness and elegance of this instruction set. At this year’s WWDC, where Apple is widely expected to announce a switch to ARM processors for Macs, I’d love to see them announce instead that they’re switching to RISC-V for all their platforms.

I’m a tourist in assembly language land. I don’t have the expertise to evaluate whether RISC-V is better than ARM or anything else.

It just seems like it would be cool, from where I’m standing now, for all of Apple’s devices to run on an ISA that is openly designed for all sizes of CPU, easy to learn about, and incorporates the lessons learned in decades of computer architecture research and development.

It’s a whimsy.

Revision History

  • 2020-06-23: The entire book is less than 200 pages, which is the count I gave in the first published version of this post. But the section that introduces and explains the whole instruction set, from the base integer instructions to privilege modes, is only 116 pages long in my copy (book version 1.0.0). The back cover blurb rounds that quite favorably to make the claim that it “introduces the RISC-V instruction set in only 100 pages, including 75 figures”. Like most primates, I’m partial to the powers of 10, so I switched to the blurb’s count.