IntroductionThis month’s TPU interview is with CPU-Z creator, Franck Delattre. Franck currently lives in France where he spends much of his time developing his company CPUID. You may also know him as the creator of ClockGen, PerfMonitor and HWMonitor. I want to thank him for taking so much time to answer all of the questions that I asked.
First Computer ExperienceIt was not an easy start for Franck in the world of computers. When he began to study aeronautical engineering in 1989, he was required to learn the programming language Turbo Pascal. Franck remembers, “It was my first contact with computers and it was a disaster.” At the time, he had no experience with computer programming. “For most people, the first contact with a computer is a game. At least this is a good motivation to learn the basics of a computer. I was asked to write some Turbo Pascal math code without those basics, and I had no idea about what a computer program was.” So Franck’s parents bought him a computer, and his roommate, who was a PC addict, helped him along.
During the five years in the aeronautical engineering program, Franck learned Fortran, Assembly and C. And while Fortran was heavily relied on in the aeronautical engineering field during the 1980’s, Franck says he found that he liked the C language the best. “It is a general language like Turbo Pascal, and at the same time the C structures are very close to the CPU internal structures, meaning that C types are directly mapping CPU registers. That makes C compilers very efficient and able to generate a very fast code.” He found that C was the ideal convergent point of all the languages he had learned
How CPU-Z came to lifeIn 1994, Franck completed the aeronautical engineering program in France and began to search for a job after a year of working as a conscript. Unfortunately, the aeronautical engineering industry was in crisis so Franck was unable to find a job in his field.
The computer industry however was booming. Thanks to his strong background in programming, he was hired in 1996 as a video game programmer for a company in Paris. A few years later, he was asked to write a CPU detection routine for a race car game that was in development. Franck says, “In order to make tests easier, I first wrote a small application and carried it on a floppy to test on several machines.” But the routine did not work as he expected. “Instead of checking for a minimum CPU specification, it checked for an exact match. So, as soon as a new CPU generation appeared, the game was just exiting without any message. We had to release a patch in a hurry. My first contact with hardware detection was that bad.”
From then on, Franck’s job consisted mainly of studying how new instruction sets, such as MMX, 3DNow! and SSE, would be useful in a game engine. While the job was not as important as developing a new game engine for the company it did allow him the opportunity to submit code to a contest conducted by AMD. He won second prize thanks to his savvy work using 3DNow! to demonstrate a water ripple effect, which was a big improvement over the classic x86 version. The recognition from AMD bolstered Franck’s resolve and convinced him that he could in fact work with computers. He decided to start CPUID.com as an online resource of CPU instruction sets. And the program that would show which instruction sets were supported by a specific CPU would become CPU-Z.