David Papworth Receives ACM Thacker Breakthrough Award

April 19, 2022

ACM has named David B. Papworth, formerly of Intel (retired), as the recipient of the 2022 ACM Charles P. “Chuck” Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award. Papworth is recognized for fundamental groundbreaking contributions to Intel’s P6 out-of-order engine and Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW) processors.

Papworth was a lead designer of the Intel P6 (sold commercially as the Pentium Pro) microprocessor, which was a major advancement over the existing state-of-the-art not just for Intel but for the broader computer design community. P6 introduced a new microarchitectural paradigm of decomposing complex x86 instructions into sequences of micro-operations that flowed through a micro data flow engine, constrained only by true data dependencies and machine resources. Surprising to many, this scheme, which is still in use today, also enabled significantly higher clock rates.

“The introduction of Intel’s P6 microarchitecture in 1995 was an important milestone during a time when the personal computing software and hardware industry really started to take off,” said ACM President Yannis Ioannidis. “As the lead developer of the P6 microarchitecture, David Papworth was one of the unsung heroes of the decade and his contributions are still in use today. The original P6 not only fitted 5.5 million transistors on a single chip, but it was significantly faster than its predecessors. Papworth’s work truly fits the criteria of a ‘leapfrog advance in computing technology’ that the ACM Breakthrough Award celebrates. Recently, in tributes to the late Gordon Moore, many reflected on Moore’s prediction that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit would double every two years. That Moore’s law has held true for so many years is testament to outstanding engineers like David Papworth.”

The ACM Charles P. “Chuck” Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award recognizes individuals or groups who have made surprising, disruptive, or leapfrog contributions to computing ideas or technologies. Recipients of the award are expected to give the ACM Breakthrough Lecture at a major ACM conference. The award is accompanied by a $100,000 cash prize, with financial support provided by Microsoft.

Read the ACM news release.