The semiconductor industry is competitive and endlessly endeavors to replace yesterday's computer technology with smaller chips, with features as small as a thousandth of the width of a human hair. The idea is to get more transistors on a single chip. Increasing the number of transistors ultimately leads to more power in the computer, cell phone, handheld PDA and other electronic devices that have a computer chip inside. In our times just about every electronic device has a computer chip inside. The pursuit to make these devices more powerful, and thus effectively independent of a constant power source, is the focus for miniaturization in computer technology. Ultimately the goal is to have computers everywhere by making components smaller and more powerful. These days you can buy one megabyte of memory for less than a stick of gum.
Technical giants around the world have accomplished innovations in miniaturization of computers to the degree of making older computers obsolete almost as quickly as they were put on the public market for sale. The commercial market for computer technology is so competitive that every giant in the industry of microprocessors is focused like a laser on erecting the next smallest microchip. The seemingly endless battle over miniaturization of computer technology may in fact be nearing an end. As computer chips get smaller, it becomes more difficult to construct components to fit on the chips.
Manufacturers use a process known as lithography to create an artwork of circuitry that is layered over a silicon substrate. This method is changing rapidly. The problem with the functionality of this type of chip is the continuous pursuit of shrinking the size of the chip. In this miniaturization process, the surface area of the chip declines, leaving less room for the components that make the computer run faster or store more data. Components are more difficult to shrink in size. With fewer components, the capacity of the computer chip will come to a halt at some point in the design process. Even the creation of microscopic chips with nanotechnology will require innovation on the macro level. The macro level is the portion of physical reality that humans move around in. With nano computers we still need a way of plugging them into a macro conduit --- power cables, outlets and peripherals like computer monitors.
Miniaturization is especially important in the surface area of microchips, with components interconnected across the face of the chip. As surface area decreases, engineers are faced with the problem of designing newer and faster circuit designs. The problem with the new nano technology is in the wiring of nano devices. There isn't an outlet or even a cable to plug in nano devices. Currently, small wiring is placed on top of silicon-based chips in which molecules replace the wiring. Wires can be up to 5,000 times longer than they are wide.
The future of miniaturization of computer technology will be in three-dimensional circuits. These cubes will replace the two-dimensional chips in computer technology. One of the benefits of using cubes is the surface area. A six-sided cube can contain more components than the standard computer chip. This new design shows prospect for the future in that a shrunken cube still retains a larger surface area than the smallest chip. With this new surface area, engineers can place more components on microprocessor. With more components, processors become faster and have a greater capacity for storing information.
One of the bigger considerations for making computer technology smaller is the availability of the Internet. As computers are miniaturized down to the subatomic level, computers could literally be floating around in the air. By building computers on the subatomic level, the laws of physics do not apply as we know them. This allows for greater flexibility in computer connectivity, and may eventually make wiring computers together obsolete.
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