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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

You can prise my graphics card

…out of my cold, dead hands. I am always using the tech industry as an example of how wonderful things can be when largely unregulated by governments. But of course it is not really true.

There are currently seven specifications for graphics cards – G1, G2, G3, G4, G5, G6 and G7. Graphics cards of the G7 classification have a bandwidth of 128 GB/s (GigaByte per Second) and more, without an upper limit today. The category depends on the performance – in this case measured in memory bandwidth. These GPU categories are also paired with a certain level of energy efficiency. If a graphics card doesn’t live up to the standard set by the EC it can be removed from all markets within the EU. The rules will now be constricted, which threatens next generation graphics cards.

Blah, blah, blah, etc. The thing to realise is that the EC is taking an arbitrary measurement (memory bandwidth), making arbitrary categories, and then applying energy consumption limits to the categories. But innovation does not work that way. Specialised graphics processing hardware might choose any number of other trade-offs than memory bandwidth to achieve other goals. What will happen now is that human effort will be spent on maximising performance within constraints set by bureaucrats.

Hat-tip to the libertarian sub-Reddit.

Update: The source article has been updated (thanks to Sigivald for noticing). It seems graphics cards with a high enough memory bandwidth are now said to be exempt from the regulations. But this is in itself a restriction and regulations only ever get more restrictive.

3 comments to You can prise my graphics card

  • Dave Walker

    Hmm. I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist, but I wonder whether these constraints are being imposed for other reasons. Graphics cards are very good at doing things other than figuring out what colour pixels to render where – if you think of a modern GPU as a grid-on-a-chip, it can be applied well to any task which parallelises readily (usually by slicing up the problem space) and can be expressed in the limited instruction set of each processor. Password cracking is a good example.

    If graphics cards are constrained by memory bandwidth, I’d hope the DMA rate limitations being imposed would at least fit a display of 1 polygon per pixel, at a 50Hz frame refresh, so they continue to work well for rendering displays. If much higher DMA rates are being clamped down on, I’d surmise the idea is to try to prevent people using their graphics cards as cut-price Crays.

    This also suggests something is happening, or about to happen, in terms of clamping down on the black market in high-end IT.

  • Sam Duncan

    And do we get a vote on this? Of course not. That’s the “democracy” the EU just won the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting.

  • Sigivald

    Dave: Well, the post has been updated to state that the Really High End cards are exempted from those requirements, so that can’t be the intent.

    Plus, of course, modern CPUs have a fair amount of such hardware in them as well; not as much or as specialized as a hefty GPU, but enough that even a notional “ban” on hot GPUs would be of no more than marginal effect on such computation – it’d make it somewhat more expensive in the EU, but that’s it.

    (Me, my attention was caught by the “seven specifications for graphics cards” in the pull-quote, that I’d never heard of before.

    That being because they’re only used internally by EC and nobody else gives a fig for them. Which is fair, but explains why nobody else has heard of them, uses them, or cares.)