Future computing boosts will need a revolution

December 17, 2010 | Source: New Scientist Tech

The decades-long growth in computer performance will come to a screeching halt without huge changes in software and revolutionary new microchips. That’s the stark warning in a new report from the US National Research Council titled The Future of Computing Performance: Game over or next level?

As 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.

Manufacturers have been fabricating two-, four- or eight-microprocessor cores on a single chip to get around this hurdle. But the report warns that the power efficiency of present transistors cannot be improved much more, and performance “will become limited by power consumption within a decade”. Getting round that will require a yet-to-be-invented transistor architecture.