The Transistor Laser

Ultrafast transistors that output optical and electrical signals open new computing frontier

12 min read

For years we've been hearing about all the fantastic things computers will be able to do once they process data with light instead of electricity. The mysteries of the universe will be unlocked. A golden age of limitless computing power and bandwidth will usher in a techno-utopia.Don't believe the hype.

Setting aside the question of whether an all-optical processor would even be desirable, optical computing schemes lack the photonic equivalent of the most fundamental computing element, the transistor. That device--first demonstrated in 1947, when John Bardeen and Walter H. Brattain stuck two cat-whisker wires onto a germanium base and showed power gain from one wire, called the emitter, to the other, called the collector--spawned the US $300-billion-per-year semiconductor industry. The transistor makes possible our digital lifestyle: cellphones and PCs, digital cameras and MP3 players, medical imaging systems and set-top boxes, supercomputers and the Internet, and more.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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