TO­DAY’S TECH­NOL­OGY, TO­MOR­ROW

Maximum PC - - MOORE’S LAW -

While the temp­ta­tion is to seek out rad­i­cal new tech, a lit­tle lat­eral think­ing can go a long way. Take cloud com­put­ing: Who needs faster phones when you can push the heavy lift­ing into the cloud? That’s hap­pen­ing with ser­vices like Google Maps, where el­e­ments like rout­ing are cal­cu­lated on Google’s servers. So, ac­cel­er­at­ing smart­phone per­for­mance may be more de­pen­dent on im­prov­ing net­work cov­er­age and speeds than cre­at­ing faster pro­ces­sors.

Ded­i­cated cir­cuits or chips are an­other ex­am­ple. Again, the idea is al­ready in use. Imag­ine ren­der­ing a modern PC game purely on a CPU rather than a graph­ics chip, and you’ll get an idea of how much more ef­fi­cient a chip de­signed to do one thing well can be. If that ap­proach can be com­bined with ef­forts to im­prove power con­sump­tion, it’s pos­si­ble to imag­ine PCs and even smart­phones with nu­mer­ous ded­i­cated cir­cuits or chips, each able to per­form a sin­gle task far faster than any PC can to­day. If that’s not pos­si­ble, com­bine ded­i­cated chips with the idea of push­ing com­put­ing into the cloud, and you get the same re­sult: more per­for­mance.

Of course, ded­i­cated chips can be ex­pen­sive to pro­duce, which is why so-called pro­gram­mable chips may have a big­ger role to play. The idea be­hind such chips, known as field-pro­gram­mable gate ar­rays (FPGA) is to cre­ate a chip that can be re­con­fig­ured on the fly. Made up of a ma­trix of con­fig­urable logic blocks con­nected via pro­gram­mable in­ter­con­nects, FPGAs are a sort of com­pro­mise be­tween a gen­eral-pur­pose CPU and a fixed-func­tion ded­i­cated cir­cuit.

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