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  • Ken Gracey / Parallax

    No one registers by name at DEFCON. Instead, attendees pay in cash and receive badges that wirelessly communicate more information about the Goons (security), Humans (conference attendee), Press (media) or Ubers (the top hackers who win the badge crypto challenge) wearing them. This year’s badges were powered by the Propeller multicore processor from Rocklin-based Parallax.

  • Ken Gracey / Parallax

    At this year’s DEFCON, the world’s largest continually running hacker convention, the badges were powered by the Propeller multicore processor from Rocklin-based Parallax. The firm’s employees produced 13,600 badges for the Las Vegas event, which concluded Sunday.

  • Andy Lindsay / Parallax

    Parallax made news in the microchip world by releasing the code used to design its Propeller 1 chips. Designers can make changes to the design to add functions, and company officials hope this means Parallax will have the first fully open, community-designed multicore microcontroller.

  • Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Rocklin firm releases design of prized multiprocessor chip to world

Published: Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 - 7:37 pm

Microchip designer Parallax did something unthinkable at last week’s Def Con event, often described as the largest continuously running hacker conference.

In an industry where even decades-old chip designs are carefully guarded, the Rocklin-based company released the source code design for its powerful Propeller 1 microprocessor. In online forums, developers hailed the news as a turning point for those who want to create truly open-source hardware.

“There’s a trend toward open source,” Parallax CEO Ken Gracey told me in an interview just before the Las Vegas convention. “You’ve seen it in software. It’s also true in hardware. People right now want to buy things they can see into, and where they feel there’s no hidden intellectual property.”

Developers can change or even reproduce the Propeller 1 processor, even for commercial use, Gracey said. If they do use it commercially, they must share their processor design or negotiate a royalty with Parallax. Gracey said he and his brother, Parallax founder and Propeller chip designer Chip Gracey, are hoping their chip will be the basis for the first open-source multicore microcontroller in production.

Heading into Def Con, Ken Gracey actually seemed a bit more concerned about another piece of company news: the company’s Propeller microchip was going to be the brains behind the coveted conference badges worn by each attendee. Gracey said there was nothing scarier and nothing more exhilarating. At Def Con, attendees do not register by name. Rather, their badges are integrated circuit boards that can be programmed to wirelessly communicate information. Hackers show off by programming them to run other devices and by cracking a mystery challenge programmed into the devices.

Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

Read more articles by Cathie Anderson

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