How will faster computer processors be made in the future?

22 March 2009


How will faster computer processors be made in the future?


We put this to Chris Bishop from Microsoft Research

Computer processors have been doubling in speed every two years for the last fifty years or so and it's been driven by something called Moore's Law which says the number of transistors on a processor keeps doubling every two years. As the transistors have got smaller and smaller we've fitted more on the chip. We've started to run into some problems. One of the problems we're hitting already is to do with the heat density that's produced by all these transistors in a tiny space switching on and off. Right now the heat density on a chip is equal to that on a hotplate on a cooker. If we carry on the way we've been going then in ten years' time that heat density will equal that of the surface of the sun. We have to find a new way forward. The main approach that we're adopting is to do what we call parallel computing. Instead of trying to make each individual processor run faster we have several processor'sside-by-side, all working on the problem together. Using that technique of parallel processing we should be able to continue to get processors collectively to run faster and faster and to continue this doubling every two years for a good many years if not decades to come.

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