A former Apple engineer reveals the secret 10-year plan behind the M1 chip

A former Apple engineer reveals the secret 10-year plan behind the M1 chip

Rumors of Apple’s switch away from Intel processors existed for years before Apple announced the move to the world in June 2020. But according to a former Apple engineer, the company was making moves in this area long before most people realized it.

In a detailed Twitter thread, Shac Ron, who worked as a Senior Kernel Engineer at Apple from 2007 to 2017, shed light on the history of the M1 chip and Apple’s efforts to develop their own alternative to Intel processors. The thread came about in response to a tweet from machine learning expert David Kanter that claimed M1’s performance is much more to do with its cache than its architecture.

In reply, Ron explained that Apple began its work on what would become the M1 10 years ago in 2010, when it contacted ARM about making a custom 64-bit instruction set architecture (ISA). At this point, according to Ron, ARM had not even finished designing its own core chip design that it would license out to third parties.

Ron went on to say that when Apple launched this 64-bit chip — the Apple A7 in 2013’s iPhone 5S — rivals Samsung and Qualcomm were caught completely unaware by its performance. The A7 was the first 64-bit system-on-a-chip (SoC) to launch in a consumer smartphone, and Apple claimed at the time that it was twice as fast and offered twice the graphics performance as its predecessor, the A6.

Ron added more detail, asserting that Apple’s insistence on a highly efficient “OoO” (out-of-order) architecture with low clocks and the potential for adding more and more cores to the chips gave the company an edge. Indeed, Ron then claims that “M1 performance is not so because of the ARM ISA, the ARM ISA is so because of Apple core performance plans a decade ago.”…Read more>>