Can Our Computers Continue to Get Smaller Yet more Powerful?
Computers have made a rapid march into mainstream, radically transforming industry, commerce, entertainment and governance while shrinking to become ubiquitous handheld portals to the world. The progress has been driven by the industry's ability to continually innovate techniques for packing increasing amounts of computational circuitry into smaller and denser microchips. Currently Chip designers are facing both engineering and fundamental limits that have become barriers to the continued improvement of computer performance.
The question is have we reached the limits to computation? An article written after research summarizes and examines limitations in the areas of manufacturing and engineering, design and validation, power and heat, time and space, a well as information and computational complexity.
Limits related to materials and manufacturing are immediately perceptible. Shrinking designs of this scale further, inevitably leads to quantum physics and associated limits.
Limits related to engineering are dependent upon design decisions, technical abilities, and the ability to validate designs. The limits are difficult to quantify. A breakthrough has been in writing software to automatically find, diagnose and fix bugs in hardware designs.
Limits related to power and energy but recently there have been ways to improve energy consumption by temporarily turning off parts of the chip.
Limits relating to time and space. Alternatives to conventional wires are being developed.
In general chip scaling will continue for the next few years, but each step forward will meet serious obstacles as there have been limits related to information and computational complexity and those of been reached by modern computers (see The Best Gaming Desktops of 2017).
There are some new breakthrough technologies, which include carbon nanotube transistors, which provide greater drive strength and potentially reduce delay, decreasing energy consumption.