'Two brained' chips to boost PC performance

 作者:芮恰謦     |      日期:2019-03-03 07:01:05
By Will Knight Computer chips that perform calculations using identical twin processing “cores” have gone on sale in the US. Microchip maker Intel had been expected to officially launch its Extreme Edition Pentium 4 processor range, featuring dual-core technology, on 20 April. But it announced that several US PC makers had begun selling the chips a couple of days early, on Monday 18 April. This is partly to ensure that the processor range is launched ahead of arch industry rival Advanced Micro Devices, which is expected to unveil its own brand of dual-core chips on 21 April. Chips with two identical processing cores run faster than single-core processors by dividing calculations into parts and tackling them simultaneously. “Today is a historic date for the computer industry as PCs begin having ‘two brains’ instead of one,” said Don MacDonald, vice president of Intel’s Digital Home Group. The first Extreme Edition Pentium 4 processors will run at 3.2GHz, meaning they can carry out 3.2 billion simple operations every second. This is slower than the fastest single core chips available from Intel, which run at 3.7GHz. But the company says the overall performance of the dual-core chips is better. Dual-core microprocessors have been developed to deal with problems encountered when electronic components are shrunk to the nanoscale. Making microprocessors more powerful has usually involved shrinking individual components and increasing the complexity of a circuit. The most refined microprocessors available today have individual components just 90 nanometres in size, equivalent to just a few hundreds atoms. But shrinking beyond this scale – the next landmark is 65 nanometres – introduces quantum effects that can cause the circuit to malfunction. For example, at nanoscopic dimensions, rogue electrons can tunnel through insulating materials and short-circuit a device. Operating the circuit at higher power can overcome this effect, but can cause overheating. Dual-core processors offer a way around this problem, by splitting calculations between separate execution cores. The new Intel chips have 130 nanometre components but still outperform 90 nanometre chips. Another Intel technology, called Hyper-Threading, allows each core to carry out two operations simultaneously. This means a dual-core processor can process four software “threads” simultaneously. Other technologies may provide a way to overcome the problems of component shrinkage in the longer term. New insulating materials may provide a way to stop quantum leakage at lower power. And a new breed of transistor – called FinFET – which lies vertically instead of horizontally within a chip could also reduce current leakage by increasing the semiconducting surface area of the transistor’s gate. By the end of 2006,