Course Review and Technology Predictions

The unifying principle of this course has been parallelism:

We live in interesting times--by the end of your career, it is clear that massive and radical changes will have occurred in both hardware and software.  This is our chance to shape the future!


Technology Predictions

Silicon semiconductors have given us a very good run, but they're facing major challenges in the next few decades.  The high switching voltage of silicon, about 0.6 volts, is a limiting factor in reducing energy consumption of modern chips.  There are also serious obstacles to scaling semiconductor dopants below the few-nanometer (dozen-atom) regime, and maintaining reliability despite electromigration, especially at elevated temperatures.

We've radically switched computing technologies every few generations for the past 200 years, so it's quite possible for another radical transformation to occur.

Technology Past Present Future Issues
Electronic digital computer Sequential computer (1950s) Multicore (2000s) Many-core? Programming model is restrictive.  Data movement problems such as energy and race conditions dominate performance.
Hydraulic computer MONIAC, hydraulic automatic transmission (1940s) Microfluidics Nanofluidics? Viscosity limits cycle rates to KHz range.  Reactant recycling is difficult.
Mechanical computer Babbage's Analytical Engine (1830s) Keyless lock

Rod logic?


Viscosity determines operating rate.  Wear limits operating lifetime.  Routing mechanical power via line shafts is harder than routing electricity or fluids.
Electromechanical computer Hollerith's tabulating machine (1890 census) Piezoelectric transistors Nano electro-mechanical systems? Mechanical creep affects electrical properties.  
Analog computer Tube amplifiers, the gears of war  Probabilistic Processor Quantum computers? Noise and nonlinearity corrupt the computation results.
Networked computer Mainframe & terminals (1970s) Cloud server & phone apps Skynet? Latency, scalability, and reliability.


CS 441 Lecture Note, 2014, Dr. Orion LawlorUAF Computer Science Department.