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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The Spectacular Collapse of CryptoKitties, the First Big Blockchain Game

A cautionary tale of NFTs, Ethereum, and cryptocurrency security

8 min read
Mountains and cresting waves made of cartoon cats and large green coins.
Frank Stockton

On 4 September 2018, someone known only as Rabono bought an angry cartoon cat named Dragon for 600 ether—an amount of Ethereum cryptocurrency worth about US $170,000 at the time, or $745,000 at the cryptocurrency’s value in July 2022.

It was by far the highest transaction yet for a nonfungible token (NFT), the then-new concept of a unique digital asset. And it was a headline-grabbing opportunity for CryptoKitties, the world’s first blockchain gaming hit. But the sky-high transaction obscured a more difficult truth: CryptoKitties was dying, and it had been for some time.

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