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Plans for Next-Gen Chips Imperiled

Dim lights casting a shadow on extreme-ultraviolet lithography's debut date

7 min read

Everyone in the chip industry knows that the giddy, exponential curve they've been riding for decades can't go on forever. Some day a ”showstopper” will finally appear, signaling an end to the amazing pace at which microprocessors, memory, and other chips have become denser and faster without getting more expensive. Nobody ever expects that dreaded day to be right around the corner. But now, sobering revelations about a futuristic, multibillion-dollar chip-making initiative have thrown a shiver through the industry, raising concerns that the showstopper may be closer than anyone had thought.

As recently as March, researchers were still confident that a technique called extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photolithography would be ready in 2011 to start churning out cutting-edge logic chips. But at an advanced lithography symposium held that month by the photonics society SPIE, experts from IBM and its development partners AMD, Micron Technology, and Qimonda said they do not expect EUV to be ready for its intended debut. Others in the industry, though less blunt, say progress made in the coming year will make or break the deadline.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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