Thursday, November 04, 2004

Microprocessors hit a speed bump

"Somewhere between 130 nanometres and 90 nanometres the whole system fell apart. Scaling stopped working and nobody seemed to notice."

-B Meyerson, Chief Technologist, IBM

So far, with every process shrink, the microprocessor folks have been able to crank up the clock speed of the processor. But now they've hit a wall, it seems, and the fastest Pentium will not exceed 4 GHz any time in the near future.

So far, the preferred way to increase processor performance seems to have been to crank up the clock. Now, engineers will have to be much more clever. They had to be pretty clever before - today's processors run hundreds of times faster than memory, and so, they'd be spending most of their time waiting for data fetches to complete without some serious ingenuity. There are good articles around the web on this, but it might be fun to solidify my understanding by trying to list them out.