The Super FX co-processor was, according to Wikipedia and every other source I can find, a custom designed RISC chip made by Argonaut Games.

Argonaut was a small British company and back in the late 80s developing a custom RISC CPU was a very, very complex task. RISC was fairly new, and high speed CPU design (the Super FX ran at 21 MHz, pretty fast for the time) was far from trivial.

Did Argonaut do all the work themselves? Conceptual design, electrical design, internal layout, testing, certification for EMC etc. Or was some other company involved? Often such work is farmed out, based on a design document, to an ASIC design specialist.

For example, has anyone decaped a Super FX chip to see if there are initials or logos on the die? Is the RISC CPU based on some other design, as for example the SNES CPU was based on the 65C816.

  • 2
    ARM architecture development (1983-1985) showed that for a simple RISC processor without branch prediction, superscalarity and a complex pipeline, there is no need for a large development team. For a 16-bit processor, taking into account the availability of academic examples and new development tools (not requiring manual rubilite threading and many iterations of debugging through silicon), even special functions are not significant complexity. – Wheelmagister Mar 6 at 11:26
  • @Wheelmagister do you have any evidence that Argonaut did it? For example with ARM they partnered with VLSI to do the initial chips, and again it's not clear what the division of labour was. Did ARM hand over complete die images, or just some HDL code, or something else? – user Mar 6 at 12:11
  • 2
    @user I'm having a poke around, too. Weak evidence so far, but e.g. theregister.co.uk/2012/05/03/… : "It was Furber’s job to turn Wilson’s brainchild into something that could be taped out and sent off to the factory for fabrication." implies that Acorn provided a full die image. – Tommy Mar 6 at 15:17
  • 4
    Based on available sources, Argonaut Software hired three developers to create the Super FX chip, but the main design was developed by Ben Cheese Electronic Design using Actel FPGA to the level of masks. web.archive.org/web/19980125025554/http://… anthrofox.org/starfox/superfx.html youtube.com/watch?v=Opzomu6mgYk konixmultisystem.co.uk/… – Wheelmagister Mar 6 at 15:28
  • @Wheelmagister from you link "Ben Cheese kicked off this design which was further refined by Argonaut" so it sounds like the CPU design was mostly the work of BC – user Mar 6 at 16:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.