[AI] Intel unveils microchips, smallest & biggest at once

renuka warriar erenuka at gmail.com
Sun Apr 13 23:43:46 EDT 2008



Date:14/04/2008 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2008/04/14/stories/2008041455061300.htm 
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Front Page 

Intel unveils microchips, smallest & biggest at once 

Anand Parthasarathy 

Tiny Atom processor to fuel handy Net devices 
 
>From tiny to towering: Like the Golden Stick of Chinese legend that sr. vice-president Pat Gelsinger holds, Intel architecture scales from the tiny Atom
chip which powers hand held Internet devices to the 2-billion transistor Tukwila that will soon fuel tomorrow's supercomputers. 

BANGALORE: Chinese legend tells of a monkey king who had a golden stick - a powerful tool that could be scaled up or down, from a tiny needle to a giant
pillar to hold up the sky. "Thanks to highly scalable chip architecture you can all be monkey kings, creating applications for tiny connection devices
- and for the world's largest super computers... from milliwatts to peta flops," says Intel's senior vice president (digital enterprise), Pat Gelsinger.


He was speaking to 5,000 assembled software and hardware designers at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai recently - so the analogy went down rather well.

During a halt in Bangalore on his way back to the U.S., Mr. Gelsinger, in a briefing, explained how infinite scalability had helped the microchip leader
to create two drastically different processors:

. The Atom is the world's smallest computer processor family. The size of a baby's fingernail, the chip in its tiniest version packs in 47 million transistors
and consumes around 600 milliwatts, that is just over half a watt of power - but it has the muscle to run tomorrow's Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), small
handheld computers that will access the Net and provide a condensed keyboard to do basic e-mailing, letter writing or calculations. Slightly larger versions
will soon come to India, fuelling the next line of Classmate PCs for home and school, that HCL launched in India two months ago.

. At the other end of the computing scale is the Tukwila, the new Intel chip which has the highest number of transistors ever put on a slab of silicon -
two billion. With four separate cores on board, the chip will 'virtually' do the work of four computers. 

The world's biggest microchip is, unlike the Atom, no milliwatt machine: it gobbles 130 to 170 watts of power. But it will allow scientists to build giant
"number crunchers" even more powerful than the Tata-CRL 'Eka' supercomputer built in India and ticking away in Pune - the world's fourth-fastest computing
machine.

Fuelled by Tukwila, supercomputers will become peta flop machines, Mr. Gelsinger predicted: a peta flop is a million times billion operations a second.
In less than a decade such machines will create a complete genetic simulation of a human cell, he said. "Doctors will precisely simulate an unhealthy cell
in a human and prescribe the exact medication that is needed," he predicted.

Holding up a sample of the Tukwila wafer (the chip should reach Indian personal computer-makers by June), Mr. Gelsinger was nostalgic: "When Intel launched
the world's first microchip in 1971 it had just 2300 transistors. I was part of the team that created the Intel 386 processor in 1985 : it had 275,000
transistors... and now in my hand, I can hold this two billion-transistor monster."

He did not have the Atom chip with him. It was too tiny to hold in its, unpackaged form. 

But in his briefcase he carries a replica of the Monkey King's Golden Stick. Like Intel's newest chips, it can, in your mind's eye, seem very big - or very
small.



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