Chinese Chip Wins Energy-Efficiency Crown

Though slower than competitors, the energy-saving Godson-3B is destined for the next Chinese supercomputer

3 min read

The Dawning 6000 supercomputer, which Chinese researchers expect to unveil in the third quarter of 2011, will have something quite different under its hood. Unlike its forerunners, which employed American-born chips, this machine will harness the country's homegrown high-end processor, the Godson-3B. With a peak frequency of 1.05 gigahertz, the Godson is slower than its competitors' wares, at least one of which operates at more than 5 GHz, but the chip still turns heads with its record-breaking energy efficiency. It can execute 128 billion floating-point operations per second using just 40 watts—double or more the performance per watt of competitors.

The Godson has an eccentric interconnect structure—for relaying messages among multiple processor cores—that also garners attention. While Intel and IBM are commercializing chips that will shuttle communications between cores merry-go-round style on a "ring interconnect," the Godson connects cores using a modified version of the gridlike interconnect system called a mesh network. The processor's designers, led by Weiwu Hu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing, seem to be placing their bets on a new kind of layout for future high-end computer processors.

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The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.

Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

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