Will CPUs Get Any Faster?
What exactly is a CPU? A CPU is the central processing unit of your computer. It handles all the applications your computer is running. These applications may look nice and have a GUI (Graphical user interface) but actually they are processed by the CPU in bits, which are a series of 1’s and 0’s. The CPU uses ones and zeros because “1” means power is being sent through the transistors, and “0” means there is no power being sent through the transistors.
Transistors are what process the power signals (weather or not to let power through). This happens through a physical manner known as Boolean logic, like a series of yes or no questions (these questions are the ones and zeros). If power is given, through Boolean logic, the answer is yes, if no power is coming through, it means the answer is no. Once the query has gone through all the transistors it comes out in a bunch of 1’s and 0’s which is the processors response called binary. A processor is made up of billions of transistors that in a whole make one smart processor. Currently, the market for CPU’s is showing very little increase in their processing speeds, which is partly because of very little competition to Intel (leading in traditional computer CPU market share). The only other competitor in this market is AMD, they have recently made an impact but for years they haven’t been doing anything in there CPU department. From there last generation to now, they have improved by an astronomical level. From being used in cheap computers (not many), to high end desktops. Currently, mainstream laptop and desktop manufactures are still barely using them in their systems as intel is still leading in the market and since AMD has not been producing very many products in the past couple of years.
But there server grade chips are doing very well, defeating intel’s counterpart in there specifications and real use case scenario performance. From an increase in competition this may be when intel starts to make faster CPUS and both companies start to battle each other again for marketshare like android phones and apples iPhone. Are there current limitations on CPU’s speeds? Yes, there are power limitations, heat, the size of the CPU, and transistor size limitations. First, power limitations, as applications become more reliant on processing power, to increase speed, manufactures have been increasing the amount of transistors on the Dye (where all the processing happens or the processor itself) of the CPU, they have also been trying to make the transistors smaller and faster. This incurs the problem of electricity leaking and heat problems. Electricity can leak when the gate is not allowing electricity to pass through the conductor.
When the gate is two small (gate being distance between the break in electrical connection), electricity can leak to the other end of the conductor, which gives false signals inside the CPU. The problem of heat is generated when the transistors are switching on and off too fast. This can be solved with better cooling technology, but would prove counter intuitive to where the market is heading. Everybody is searching for a smaller and lighter computers, laptops, desktops, and other mobile devices, so making the CPU bigger on consumer devices is not an option. However this is being implemented in server grade equipment.
Current coolers consist of water cooling and air cooling. Air cooling works by using a heat spreader mounted on top of the CPU sealed with thermal paste (the paste conducts heat very well), a fan is used on top of the heat spreader to remove heat from the spreader and in relation to the CPU. These devices are sometimes small or large, the bigger the spreader, the more heat can be removed, and therefore working more efficiently. The smaller ones are used in small form factor devices and pushed to the limit when given a lot of heat to remove. To keep from damaging the processor with a small cooler, manufactures have been under clocking their possessors to put a lower load capacity on the cpu, usually taking the processing speed down by half a GHZ (gigahertz, a measure of cpu speed).
Water coolers work by spreading constantly cooled water over a small copper plate secured by thermal paste to the processor. The copper conducts heat very well and is carried by pipes over the copper to take the heat way from it. The water is diverted to a radiator where 1 or more fans sit, the waters heat is transferred to small fins on the radiator where the heat is removed by the fans to somewhere outside of the computers case. This system is highly efficient, but, is not very small. This system is of the most basic understanding of a water cooler, more complex systems can be demonstrated in enthusiast builds.
Water cooling, in the basic system stated above is used only (with some exceptions) in desktop systems, not in laptops because of the form factor issues. Water coolers can price from 90 to 300 + dollars, 90 being the most basic, this keeps sellers like, Dell, Asus, Acer, etc, from putting them in there home and work desktops, they are only seen in very high end gaming systems. This expensive price and lackluster implementation of the technology keeps the market at bay from creating a cpu heat problem because of the changes the market will have to go through. For example, form factors would be changed in laptops and desktops, computers would become louder because of the need for more fans.
If the heat could not be managed, the processors would have to be under-clocked in consumer grade systems, thus having no ground gained in the terms of the processors speed. Another restraint on CPUs getting faster is power, small devices like laptops don’t have very large battery’s which inhibits the amount of power a processor can draw to be efficient. If the amount of power being drawn is increased and doesn’t improve the speed enough to be efficient, no ground will be gained in mobile and desktops markets. The market is highly dependent on efficiency in processors, everybody want to have a high clock speed for a low power draw, so to those certain processors that are efficient are bought is mass quantity’s by big box companies, thus throwing out the non efficient ones. In data centers, electricity is very expensive, 1 watt more for each processors in over 500 hundred servers systems can bring up the price drastically.
Thus showing the importance of efficiencies, currently servers all around the world are apart of 10% of the worlds energy consumption. Why does it matter that speeds increase? The speeds matter because of innovation and moving technology forward. If the tech doesn’t get faster our applications don’t get more advanced or faster for that matter. Scientific breakthroughs would slow down and many other things that rely on technology to get things done, especially the industries that use technology to create new technology would slow down even further. Like science has the law of the conservation of energy, cpu manufactures try to abide by mores law. This law/prediction was made by an electrical engineer named Gorden E Morre.
He predicted that “The average computer processor speed will double each year” (independent.co). This has however, over the past couple of years has slowed to every two years and increasing.Mores law is the foundation that computer processing is advancing upon, if it fails to be true then processors will lose efficiency and all hope for faster speeds will be lost. We will have hit a barrier in computer technology, but is there another way? Quantum computing seems to be the new hope in everybody’s eyes but its not what people think.
Quantum computers take inputs from two streams of ones and zeros unlike traditional processors do, therefore giving them the ability to process a larger number of calculations. But quantum computing is focused computing (not aimed at many different processes), these computers focus towards scientific, medical, and financial industries. The current cost of a quantum computer is 15 million dollars putting it out of reach for most people and companies. Quantum computers would be a solution to the complex math equation but not for mass market companies or consumers. In conclusion, the processing speeds of computers are slowing down, there are many current problems they will have to get over to start making progress. What does this mean for the everyday customer? Regular consumers of technology won’t see many improvements on technology and there speeds, then it will soon inhibit productivity once the applications become too cpu reliant.
Manufactures will eventually hit a wall where can not go any further in terms of speeds, this will be the down fall of the market. Until there is a scientific breakthrough for CPUs, the market will slowly decline. Processors will still get faster in phones and tablets because they are a couple years behind in there transistor technology but they will experience a decline too. It will be a great end to one thing but a birth to another, as all good things come and go. Works Cited Green, Chris.
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