Transmeta Founder Stuck With Heavy Notebook

Back in 1995 Dave Ditzel and a bunch of other smart engineers founded Transmeta, a startup with some revolutionary ideas for creating super energy-efficient, x86 (Intel)-compatible chips. The company’s plans were shrouded in secrecy until it burst on the scene in January, 2000 to announce its first products and a team that included none other than Linux creator [Linus Torvalds](/dev-news/article.php/2222991 Torvalds leaves).

The company got some early glowing reviews, including by [yours truly ]( I set up shop here. I said in part:

“Transmeta’s Crusoe microprocessor promises to shake up the market for mobile computing devices, including everything from handhelds to Net appliances to traditional PC notebooks.”

But the company hit several snags before it finally got its first Crusoe chips out the door and, save for some licensing deals and sales to a small number of portable computer makers, fell far short of its ambitious goals or even profitability as a chip supplier.

Transmeta was of course way ahead of the curve with its focus on energy efficiency. The company transitioned from a chip supplier to licensing its technology to others, but eventually folded. As for Ditzel, he took a year off “working in my garden” and taking it easy.

I ran into him last night at Microsoft Research during an event we both attended on “The Innnovation Economy: R&D and a Crisis.” For the past year he’s been working at, you guessed it, Intel.

“I’m still having fun,” he said.

And for an engineer, why not? He said his job is trying to figure out what chips will be like eight years from now. “And what features they’re going to need that people will want to keep buying them.”

Of course, his promotion of energy efficiency is welcome at Intel as that’s become a staple of its chip designs the past several years. If he has one complaint though, it’s the company-issued IBM ThinkPad T41 he has to use when traveling.

“I had what was essentially a netbook made by Sharp [running on a Transmeta processor] back in 2002 that weighed a lot less and ran plenty fast.”

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