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Editor's Note: This is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics. Read more about the Nobel Prize winners themselves, the Bell Labs engineer who patented the CCD imager, and the illustrious history of Bell Labs.

 

Last Monday, I asked Willard Boyle, who will share the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics with former colleague George Smith, a few uncomfortable questions:

Should Eugene Gordon have been on the patent for the CCD?
“I don’t think so. I don’t see it all. He didn’t have any entries in a notebook... I’ve no recollection of his having been around.”

Should Mike Tompsett be recognized for making the first CCD camera?
“Fair enough. He’s one of the three that made the first model. No problem there.”

What about those who complain that there is no physics to the invention of the CCD—that it’s purely a work of engineering?
“They should complain to the Nobel Committee. We’ve already had a nice engineering award for it.”

In a conversation with me it didn’t seem that Gordon’s claims had dented Boyle’s happiness in the least. I asked him what the week of the announcements was like:

“It’s been extremely busy,” says the retired Haligonian. He described the 05:00 wake up call from Stockholm as “a shocking moment.” His wife answered the phone: “Stockholm is calling.”

Since the call he’s been in contact with fellow winner George Smith: “We’re both happy. You get a nice comfortable feeling,” he says. (Several hundred thousand euros would indeed be comforting, in my opinion.)

Recalling the day he and Smith worked on the CCD concept he says that when he came home that night he told his wife: “George and I did something special today.”

Years later, he and Smith received a series of letters from major observatories around the world, thanking them for their work. “It made you feel good,” he says. He’s looking forward to going to Stockholm to accept the award.

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3 Ways 3D Chip Tech Is Upending Computing

AMD, Graphcore, and Intel show why the industry’s leading edge is going vertical

8 min read
Vertical
A stack of 3 images.  One of a chip, another is a group of chips and a single grey chip.
Intel; Graphcore; AMD
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A crop of high-performance processors is showing that the new direction for continuing Moore’s Law is all about up. Each generation of processor needs to perform better than the last, and, at its most basic, that means integrating more logic onto the silicon. But there are two problems: One is that our ability to shrink transistors and the logic and memory blocks they make up is slowing down. The other is that chips have reached their size limits. Photolithography tools can pattern only an area of about 850 square millimeters, which is about the size of a top-of-the-line Nvidia GPU.

For a few years now, developers of systems-on-chips have begun to break up their ever-larger designs into smaller chiplets and link them together inside the same package to effectively increase the silicon area, among other advantages. In CPUs, these links have mostly been so-called 2.5D, where the chiplets are set beside each other and connected using short, dense interconnects. Momentum for this type of integration will likely only grow now that most of the major manufacturers have agreed on a 2.5D chiplet-to-chiplet communications standard.

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