Math Science Chemistry Economics Biology News Search
The first computer was ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator), a 30 tons colossus made up of 17 thousands valves, built in 1946 and well known for its weakness:in order to work it required 174 KW but the huge heat often melted the condenser insulators. The making of this colossus was commissioned by the American Army to decrypt German coded messages, and it cost half a thousand dollars.
In 1971, Ted Hoff, an Intel employer, was asked by Busicom to build 12 different processors, but he managed to create a sole chip able to develop all their functions.
The versatility of this chip (called 4004 because of its calculating power of 4 bits) made it possible to use it on every electronic platform and Intel spent 60 thousands dollars to buy the patent Notwithstanding the reduced dimensions, 4004 had the same calculating power of ENIAC.
Soon came out an 8 bit version of 4004 (called 8008) able to elaborate data at twice the 4004 speed; in 1979 a microprocessor of 16 bits, the 8086, gave life to the first Personal Computer: in order to lighten the system, the logic-arithmetic function (which cares for all the mathematic and logical duties) was assigned to the co-processor 8087 (built just for this scope) so as to use the 8086 only as a manager of memory. Many other models , the 80286, the 80386, the 80486 and the Pentium series until the modern Pentium IV followed the first one.
As we can see with the passing of time, the calculators became more compact and efficient; their price became even more reasonable and in the ’90s anybody could afford a PC.
In recent years every kind of technology has been replaced with a more advanced one following the market necessities and consumers' needs.
Nowadays, we are going to witness the coming of a new self-sufficient chip able to dial with a laser ray … let’s see how it will work in details.
The Hybrid Silicon Laser is the first chip able to generate a laser beam with an electric pulse; silicon, widely used in the informatics industries for the production of chips, can be used to reflect, direct and amplify the light. However it’s not good for giving out light under electric charge, because of a limitation called Indirect Bandbgap.
Santa Barbara University, in cooperation with Photonics Tecnology Laboratory directed by the Italo-american Mario Paniccia, has found a way to combine the silicon with a compound made of Indium and Phosphorus, filling this limitation and so creating this Hybrid Silicon Laser.
This new kind of chip employs a thin silicon layer, suitably carved to realize a sort of duct for the light electro-magnetic wave, and another layer of Indium Phosfate, fixed together by using a gas (Plasma) electrically charged at low temperature. The two layers have to be pressed together and the increase of temperature allows plasma to paste them together.
Laser technology had already been employed for this purposes, but the chip was separated by the laser emission unit so that the structure was very complicated and too expensive also for company purposes.
By knocking down the economic barriers of laser technologies, processors will be built so as to assemble more chips and increase calculating properties up to terabit (2 x 1040 bit).
Unfortunately the Hybrid Silicon Laser is still work-in-progress and we'll have to wait until 2010 to see it on the market; until that time we can just wonder what marvels technology might reach …