Headline Nov 05, 2014/


DECADES of  ''manna from heaven''.

That is how Trevor Mudge, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, describes the technological impact:

Of the steady doubling, roughly every two years, of the number of transistors that can be crammed into a silicon chip.

It has increased the processing power and storage capacity of computers  while reducing their size and energy consumption. The results are all, all around us.

But this steady doubling  -known as Moore's law after Gordon Moore, the engineer who first pointed it out in 1965-  cannot go on forever, and nearly five decades later the limits may finally be within sight.

Transistors now measure as little as 22 nanometres   -that is billionth of a metre- in width,  smaller than the wavelength of light with which they are etched, and just a few tens of atoms across.

As transistors get smaller and smaller,  keeping them cool and error free becomes more difficult.

Lowering the voltage at which transistors operate produces less heat, but further reductions are now difficult because feebler voltages result in more frequent errors.

The march towards  ever-smaller  and faster chips  ''is starting to come unglued'', says  Dr Mudge. That is why he and other computer scientists are taking a new approach designing microchips that can tolerate errors in their operation.

Such inexact or  ''sloppy''  chips, as they are also known, can be smaller, faster and more energy efficient.

The important thing is to control where the errors occur.

Masahiro Fujita, who is designing sloppy chips at the University of Tokyo, notes that a single mistake at the beginning of a sequence of instructions can propagate through subsequent calculations and completely mess up the behaviour of a computer or  robot.

But, he says, even relatively numerous mistakes are  no big deal in other circumstances such as when handling sound, images or video.

Tiny sound distortions or slightly miscoloured  pixels will go unnoticed.

An international team of researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Micro-technology (CSEM) in Neuchatel and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore found:

That by reducing the  operating voltage,  sloppy chips could deliver equivalent performance to ordinary chips using a quarter of the energy.

For audio playback,  the researchers found, sound quality was acceptable even with the error rates of 8%.

Hearing aids of mobile phones should let people trade sound quality for battery life,  says Krishna Palem,  the head of the project.

When the battery is running low, they could switch to high-error mode and put up with a static. 

A prototype  sloppy chip, developed with a funding from  Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, and America's Department of Defence, is now ready for production.

Dr Krishna Palem plans to establish a start-up  to sell such chips for use in hearing aids with long battery lives.

The Honour and Serving of the operational research continues. Thank you for reading and see Ya on the following one.

With respectful dedication to all the Scientists in the world. See Ya all. Sirs, on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

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