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The Nobel Prize and Its Discontents

Some imaging pioneers have a problem with the Nobel committee

4 min read
The Nobel Prize and Its Discontents

The Nobel Prize is the peak honor in physics. Yet this year it celebrated not science, but technology: "the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit—the CCD sensor." The winners were two IEEE Fellows from Bell Telephone Laboratories, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith.

Two other IEEE Fellows and former Bell Labs colleagues, Michael F. Tompsett and Eugene I. Gordon, say the Nobel committee has made a mistake. Their complaints reveal a lot about how inventions happen and how credit for them is given. At the heart of their complaints is that the Nobel Prize winners had little to do with the charge-coupled device's use in imaging—the reason it became so important to astronomy and consumer electronics.

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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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