Loongson (龙芯, academic name: Godson, also known as Dragon chip) is a family of general-purpose CPUs developed at ICT(Institute of Computing Technology), CAS (Chinese Academy of Sciences) in the People's Republic of China. The chief architect is Professor Weiwu Hu. Godson chips are manufactured in China by a French-Italian company ST Microelectronics - a MIPS64 licensee.
BLX IC Design Corporation, Ltd (BLX) was founded in 2002 by Institute of Computing Technology, China Academy of Sciences and Jiangsu Zhongyi Group. Based in Beijing, BLX focuses on designing the advanced 32bit/64bit Godson general and embedded processor, developing software tools and reference platforms.
The first revision of the Loongson architecture, the Loongson1 is a pure 32-bit CPU running at a clock speed of 266 MHz. Its primary focus is with embedded designs such as cash registers, where 64-bit capability and high speed are not necessary. It was released in 2002. As of 2006 it was used in the Sinomanic Tianhua GX-1C PC.
On December 26, 2007, China revealed its first supercomputer of 1 teraflops (the actual capacity is about 350G) in Hefei, designated as KD-50-I. This supercomputer was designed by a joint team led by academician Mr. Chen Guoliang (陈国良), professor of the computer science technology major of the University of Science and Technology of China (the primary contractor, with the Institute of Computing Technology of Chinese Academy of Sciences as the secondary contractor). KD-50-I is the first Chinese built supercomputer to utilize domestic Chinese CPUs, with a total of more than 330 Loongson-2F CPUs. The size of the computer was roughly equivalent to a household refrigerator and the cost was less than RMB 800,000. The Loongson-2F thus became the first domestic Chinese CPU to be used in a supercomputer.
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In September 2006, Li Guojie, director of the Institute of Computer Technology under the CAS announced a Longxin IIE (Godson IIE), a 64-bit chip containing 47 million transistors and reaching speeds of 1 GHz. It implements a subset of the MIPS III ISA.
In the second half of the third quarter of 2006, China revealed the latest addition to the Godson series, the Godson 2E, which was already in the early stages of manufacturing. Developers claim tests show that the Chinese chip can rival Intel Pentium 4 processor in performance and it was superior to the early series of the Pentium 4 CPUs, with much lower production costs.
Unlike processors from Intel, Advanced Micro Devices or Via Technologies, the Godson-2E is not based on the x86 instruction set. Instead, the chip uses a modified version of the MIPS instruction set that replaces proprietary instructions with ones developed by ICT. This means the Godson 2E cannot be used in PCs running Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, and thus the computing devices based on the Godson 2E would be most likely running the Linux operating system.
The processor runs at a clock speed of 1 GHz and like other chips in the Godson family, the Godson 2E was designed by the Chinese Academy of Science's Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) and was the first Chinese CPU produced using 90-nanometer process technology. Earlier versions of the Godson 2 chip were produced using a 180-nanometer process and ran at clock speeds up to 500 MHz. The Godson 2E CPU contains 47 million transistors, more than the 42 million of the original Pentium 4. Battery drain will be less, with power consumption between 3 to 8 watts, according to CAE Fellow Li Guojie (李国杰), director of the ICT. Li Guojie also announced that at the end of 2006, scientists would start to upgrade Godson 2E to Godson 2F, which will improve performance by about 30% and reduces power consumption by about 50%. It was announced that the Godson-3 is scheduled to enter production by 2008. In January 2007 Gentoo Linux was ported on this machine, the initial port was compiled on a Cobalt Qube micro-server.
Currently, Loongson boxes that come with a 667 MHz Godson 2E processor or a 800 MHz Godson 2F processor are sold in China at CNY1599 (~US$200) or CNY 1800 respectively without monitor, mouse, or keyboard.
Linux distributions that work on Loongson:
The first known devices using Loongson processors were only available inside the People's Republic of China. Sinomanic's Tianhua GX-1C was the first subnotebook using a Loongson I processor, and Lemote has 2E and 2F products on sale.
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