I have long been a believer that it was time that the computer industry met the musicians. One of the major problems that I have seen over the 30 years of being involved in the computer world is that ‘computer geeks’ do what they think is good, but rarely does it meet the requirements of the user community. Charlie Boswell is maybe AMD’s greatest evangelist for the music world, and he was gracious to carve out time for an interview.

There are Evangelists that evangelize for money, some do it for fame, a very few do it because they genuinely believe, Charlie most definitely belongs in the last group. This is a guy that is driven.

Charlie, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’m from the Mid-west, growing up in the boyhood home of Walt Disney. I was a music school drop-out who became an electrical engineer because I thought it’d be a good way to meet women. It was in the early 90’s that I saw the chance of joining music to the computer. I was working for AMD, involved with a ‘Synth chip’ and wrote a film score for an independent film in my spare time. That landed me on ‘Good Morning America’ and before I knew it, I was asked by Hector Ruiz, our CEO, to lead AMD’s effort in the entertainment industry. We were a small family back then, but we have grown a lot since. We were once known as being the guys that copied the opposition, now we are the guys that the opposition copies!

Oh yes, this technology is designed to handle both aspects. In fact, you can use it to lay down a track, play it back, and lay down another track. You can load in an entire orchestra, play it back, play along with it, and record yourself playing along to it. You can capture the audience reaction as well. Anything you can imagine. This is a very versatile and portable platform.

For example, you live in Calgary, there are lots of solo artists that play the local bars and coffee shops. With our technology they can pack a whole studio under their arm. It used to cost a million dollars, today it is under $1,000.

Producing a multi track recording requires a fair amount of computer power. In layman’s terms, how many tracks can be handled concurrently?

There are lots of factors involved, not least of which is the sampling rate. I will say this though, we just finished capturing a live performance for a major recording artist and it was on a laptop, 26 tracks! When we did Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, that was 56 tracks in high-resolution audio, but on a dual socket workstation.

The press has been growling a little about dual core technology and how most applications are not written to take advantage, is dual core buying anything with this unique application?

You have to look at the underlying platform architecture, AMD has moved away from the traditional front side bus architecture. We call ours the AMD Direct Connect Architecture. Instead of forcing I/O, memory and other processor cores to fight it out for bandwidth over a single wire like in the front side bus architecture, we directly connect I/O, memory and other CPU cores over independent wires which allows for the lowest latency possible. A processor is just no longer just a processor. It does a lot of work that is behind the scenes.

AMD is not the only manufacturer making multi core CPU’s, what makes AMD better?

Hmm, well let me put it this way. When we decided to take the plunge into multi core, we did an ‘extreme makeover’, we went back to the drawing board and looked at the best ways to leverage the other engines. The opposition (who I won’t name) on the other hand didn’t go for the makeover, they just went for a bad hair piece! Visible cheese cloth. We did something innovative, they just tagged along. Times have changed, there was a time when AMD was the company that cloned, but not now. We are the company that creates and innovates, it is everyone else that copies us.

One of the stories that I have heard time and time again is how the computer industry creates products in a vacuum, they spend no time actually talking to the end user.

I am in total agreement! The blind gadgeteering you refer to has created a culture that is affecting the entire planet. I call it “Global Nerding” which is the result of what I call the “Geekhouse Effect”. To combat that that in our small but determined way, we work – as an ingredient company — directly with the artist rather than allow others to determine the market for us. I am primarily a musician. Everyone on my team is either a musician or a filmmaker or both. We have consulted extensively with musicians and some of the best audio producers in the world. The Dell/AMD products for the Guitar Center are aimed at the recording musician, not the computer geek. We just need products that work!

Editors note – This was a very fun interview, it is always great to talk to a believer, in fact I am so convinced, I am going to try it! AMD if you read this, drop me a line and I will give you the shipping address.

Simon Barrett


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