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Are computer chips on the verge of a quantum leap?

by Nadeer on 2013-09-03 at 10:21:01


We swipe, we tap, we scroll and click, but rarely do we pause to think about what goes on in the maze of electronics beneath our fingertips.

But next time you are marveling at the computer hardware in your hands spare a thought for the tiny transistors in our computer chips. Without them all our modern gizmos wouldn't work.

"I think transistors really are the unsung heroes of the information age," says Kaizad Mistry, vice president at the world's leading chip maker, Intel. "These tiny little switches ... these are the things that our computers, our servers, our smartphones and laptops (depend on)."

Since Intel introduced the first commercial microprocessor in 1971, all chip manufacturers have been striving to increase processor speeds by cramming more and more transistors -- the tiny switches that control electrical signals -- onto surfaces no bigger than the size of a fingernail.

Intel's landmark 4004 chip contained 2,300 transistors, each measuring a few micrometers (a millionth of a meter) across. Today, the most advanced silicon chips contain billions of nano-sized switches controlling the flow of electrical currents.



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