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3-D Chips Grow Up

In 2012, 3-D chips will help extend Moore’s Law—and move beyond it

6 min read
3-D Chips Grow Up
Illustration: Paul Tebbott

The integrated circuit could use a lift. Almost 50 years after Gordon Moore forecast the path toward faster, cheaper chips, we’ve miniaturized electronic components so much that we’re increasingly colliding with fundamental physical limitations. The days of simple transistor scaling are long behind us—the latest, greatest chips are a hodgepodge of materials and design tweaks. These chips also leak a lot of power, and they contain transistors that are so variable in quality they’re difficult to run as intended.

Fortunately, chipmakers are pursuing a pair of innovations that will give dramatic boosts in the two categories that really count: performance and power consumption. In both cases, the trick will be to build up and into the third dimension. And manufacturers will do it at the level of both the individual transistor and the full microchip. In 2012, the chip will start to become the cube.

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The Device That Changed Everything

Transistors are civilization’s invisible infrastructure

2 min read
A triangle of material suspended above a base

This replica of the original point-contact transistor is on display outside IEEE Spectrum’s conference rooms.

Randi Klett

I was roaming around the IEEE Spectrum office a couple of months ago, looking at the display cases the IEEE History Center has installed in the corridor that runs along the conference rooms at 3 Park. They feature photos of illustrious engineers, plaques for IEEE milestones, and a handful of vintage electronics and memorabilia including an original Sony Walkman, an Edison Mazda lightbulb, and an RCA Radiotron vacuum tube. And, to my utter surprise and delight, a replica of the first point-contact transistor invented by John Bardeen, Walter Brittain, and William Shockley 75 years ago this month.

I dashed over to our photography director, Randi Klett, and startled her with my excitement, which, when she saw my discovery, she understood: We needed a picture of that replica, which she expertly shot and now accompanies this column.

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Paying Tribute to 1997 IEEE President Charles K. Alexander

The Life Fellow was a professor at Cleveland State University

4 min read
portrait of man smiling against a light background
The Alexander Family

Charles K. Alexander, 1997 IEEE president, died on 17 October at the age of 79.

The active volunteer held many high-level positions throughout the organization, including 1991–1992 IEEE Region 2 director. He was also the 1993 vice president of the IEEE United States Activities Board (now IEEE-USA).

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Fourth Generation Digitizers With Easy-to-Use API

Learn about the latest generation high-performance data acquisition boards from Teledyne

1 min read

In this webinar, we explain the design principles and operation of our fourth-generation digitizers with a focus on the application programming interface (API).

Register now for this free webinar!

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