“There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary numerals, and those who don't.” ― Ian Stewart, Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities

Future Developments

 

The Death of Silicon

The CPUs of the future will be unrecognizable to the denizens of the past. They will utilise new ideas in material engineering and physics to deliver clock speeds of approximately 1 THz. Whatever the future holds, it seems that the designs of the next generation of CPUs will depart from silicon. Silicon needs to be doped to act as a semiconductor, while carbon doesn’t. Carbon nanotubes, structures where cylinders are formed from individual carbon atoms, could be the transistors of tomorrow. Even if this esoteric material does not come to dominate the market, Intel has been experimenting with elements like antimony and indium to replace silicon. It is reasonable to say that the eulogy of the silicon transistor will appear on popular technology websites within a decade.


Light and Time

Other possible future designs could do away with the electron as the information carrier. Instead of electrons moving through a chip to transmit information, photons would. This is the concept of optical computing, which replaces electricity with light. Since light is by its very nature the fastest way to transmit information in the universe, the speed gains from this new design would be monumental. However, creating a practical optical transistor has been a problem for researchers for some time.


 

It gets weird

And then there are the really odd methods. These entail innovations that are truly the property of science fiction. One is the return of analogue computing. Analogue computers are constructed by wiring together different single purpose circuits to solve a particular problem. They fell out of favor in the 1970s, and may perhaps make a return. Their usage would be in conjunction with a digital computer, with the analogue circuit doing repetitive tasks at great speed. The last truly bizarre method is that of biological computing, where molecules like DNA are used to simulate millions of different situations in parallel. With these innovations in processor design, no doubt new architectures will develop to let programmers interact with this fantastic new hardware.