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Upgrades Technology

Can Our Computers Continue To Get Smaller and More Powerful? 151

Posted by timothy
from the where-is-the-orchard-of-low-hanging-fruit? dept.
aarondubrow (1866212) writes In a [note, paywalled] review article in this week's issue of the journal Nature (described in a National Science Foundation press release), Igor Markov of the University of Michigan/Google reviews limiting factors in the development of computing systems to help determine what is achievable, in principle and in practice, using today's and emerging technologies. "Understanding these important limits," says Markov, "will help us to bet on the right new techniques and technologies." Ars Technica does a great job of expanding on the various limitations that Markov describes, and the ways in which engineering can push back against them.
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Can Our Computers Continue To Get Smaller and More Powerful?

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  • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Informative)

    by GrahamCox (741991) on Thursday August 14, 2014 @07:32PM (#47674343) Homepage
    Then the rate of improvements fell off a cliff

    That's only true if you're only judging it by outright speed, height, etc. Things have continued to improve in terms of efficiency, thrust-to-weight ratio, noise, cleanliness of fuel burn and above all, reliability.

    The original RB211 turbofan (the first big fanjet of the type that all modern airliners use) had a total lifetime of 1,000 hours. Nowadays it's >33,000 hours. That's an incredible achievement. In 1970, as a young kid with a keen interest in aviation, I would watch Boeing 707s fly in and out of my local airport, all trailing plumes of black smoke, all whining loudly (and deafeningly, on take-off), and understanding where all the noise protesters that frequently appeared on the news were coming from. Nowadays you don't have that, because noise is just not the problem it was, there's no black smoke, and jets slip in and out of airports really very quietly, when you consider how much power they are producing (which in turn helps them climb away more quickly).

    As far as computing is concerned, you're right - there's still plenty of room at the bottom. But the current fabrication technology is reaching its limits. Perhaps jet engine manufacturers in the late 60s couldn't see how they would overcome fundamental limits in materials technology to produce the jets we have today, but they did.

I cannot conceive that anybody will require multiplications at the rate of 40,000 or even 4,000 per hour ... -- F. H. Wales (1936)

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