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Friday, 17 December 2010 12:31

Technology growth to come to a screaming halt

Written by Nick Farell
y_wafer

Huge changes in software and microchips needed
A new report from the US National Research Council has warned that technology growth will grind to a halt unless a new generation of hardware and software is developed. The catchy-titled “The Future of Computing Performance: Game over or next level?” is packed full of bad news for the industry.

While microprocessors improved in speed by a factor of 10,000 during the 1980s and 1990s, two obstacles could mean computing power hitting a wall in the next decade, the report said.

While transistors have become ever smaller and more tightly packed, the speed at which microchips are clocked has levelled off, reaching around 3 gigahertz in 2005. That's because such fast chips generate too much heat to be used in smartphones and personal computers.

This plateau will kill Moore's law. While manufacturers have been fabricating two, four or eight microprocessor cores on a single chip to get around this hurdle, it is not enough the report warns. This is because the power efficiency of present transistors cannot be improved much more, and performance "will become limited by power consumption within a decade". It needs a yet-to-be-invented transistor architecture to save it.

Software is still behind hardware developments with multicore chips still not properly factored into designs. Software has to be designed to execute multiple tasks in parallel, rather than serially and few programs are up to this challenge.

But the report warns that converting the vast majority of software, written for serial execution, to work efficiently in parallel mode will be exceedingly difficult. It needs new software-engineering processes and tools. Programmers will need to be retrained, it warned.

Nick Farell

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Comments  

 
-3 #1 thetruth 2010-12-17 14:07
Oh, I agree. The current consoles dictate what today's computer games are made for. Unless they are updated we won't really see widescale adoption of dx10 and dx11 features in games since cross-platform development tends to be limited to the lowest common denominator, and unless they're feeling particularly generous when making the PC version I simply don't see much progression until the new consoles come out. On the other hand, it has forced manufacturers to become more imaginative, adopting things like 3D and tri monitor support in an attempt to get people to upgrade.
 
 
+21 #2 hoohoo 2010-12-17 14:14
Don't worry, Steve Jobs magically will save us all wonderfully! :-x
 
 
+26 #3 eded333 2010-12-17 14:25
Quoting thetruth:
Oh, I agree. The current consoles dictate what today's computer games are made for. Unless they are updated we won't really see widescale adoption of dx10 and dx11 features in games since cross-platform development tends to be limited to the lowest common denominator, and unless they're feeling particularly generous when making the PC version I simply don't see much progression until the new consoles come out. On the other hand, it has forced manufacturers to become more imaginative, adopting things like 3D and tri monitor support in an attempt to get people to upgrade.

He aint talking about videogames at all :).
 
 
+22 #4 techno 2010-12-17 14:49
Dont worry quantum computing is coming........soon.......sometime soon......eventually.....release date TBA.
 
 
+1 #5 loadwick 2010-12-17 15:07
@eded333,
Yes, Nick isn't talking solely about games but computing in general and one of the most computing intensive things you can do is play a top top game (Crysis-esk).

Thetruth is spot on about the 6 year old consoles dictating the pace of games though. I haven't seen an improvement in graphics on a console game in about 3 years, they just look a little more polished.

The gaming industry is desperate for new blood. I would also love Apple enter but i fear it would only be a 'low power' console with cheap App-like games (like the Wii!).
 
 
-7 #6 loadwick 2010-12-17 15:20
Sadly, I believe it’s going to 2012-2013 when the PS4/XBox 720 are out. Mainly as they need to make more from the current consoles but also that they are waiting for certain hardware. I believe:

PS4 wants the new IBM PowerPC 8 CPUs that have advanced CELL chip in-built along with nVidia’s Maxwell GPUs.
Xbox720 is probably going all Intel, possibly 22nm Haswell CPU and Larrabee GPU.

I can’t decide if they will go down the SSD road as this will be costly but maybe not too much in 2013. Also though games will be downloaded a lot more this time and so larger HDD would be needed. Still a full Blu-Ray game coming in at 50GB will take a lot of downloading and I am sure the new consoles will use the BR XL at 100GB, but not sure if games will need them for a while yet.
 
 
+27 #7 Haberlandt 2010-12-17 15:34
One word: Graphene.
 
 
-23 #8 leftiszi 2010-12-17 15:55
Huge changes needed indeed.

Throw X86 and Windows out the door! Problem solved!
 
 
+8 #9 loadwick 2010-12-17 15:57
Coming back to the article though, I am very surprised that people are saying that we might be coming to a halt. We are constantly die shrinking, 45nm at the start of the year, 32nm now, 22nm in about 12 months.

32nm Sandy Bridge looks like it runs fine at 5Ghz if there was competition so it needed to (otherwise its just the overclockers that get that speed).

But bigger changes are afoot, 3D chip building, Graphene, quantum computing. Ok these are maybe a little further out but things like APUs are the immediate way forward and once software catches up we will see a massive step forward. CUDA has shown us what is possible, we now need an industry standard like MS DirectCompute to unite Intel, AMD and nVidia so software can be made cost effectively.
 
 
+18 #10 jonelsorel 2010-12-17 16:30
Quoting leftiszi:
Huge changes needed indeed.

Throw X86 and Windows out the door! Problem solved!


Do you by any chance have a solution? Cause it's easy to throw things out the door.

The truth is today's applications (games included) aren't even made to take advantage of multi-threading.. Oh, and we're supposed to blindly believe statements coming from the US *something*, world's largest consumerist?

Go bark at another tree.
 

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