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How Small Can Computers Get? Computing in a Molecule

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the nano-pc dept.

Science 143

ScienceDaily on what the future might bring for atomic-scale computing: "Joachim, the head of the CEMES Nanoscience and Picotechnology Group (GNS), is currently coordinating a team of researchers from 15 academic and industrial research institutes in Europe whose groundbreaking work on developing a molecular replacement for transistors has brought the vision of atomic-scale computing a step closer to reality. Their efforts, a continuation of work that began in the 1990s, are today being funded by the European Union in the Pico-Inside project. ... The team has managed to design a simple logic gate with 30 atoms that perform the same task as 14 transistors, while also exploring the architecture, technology, and chemistry needed to achieve computing inside a single molecule and to interconnect molecules."

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zzz (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266533)

niggrs

Re:zzz (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266561)

DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO PUBLIC LICENSE
                                        Version 2, December 2004

  Copyright (C) 2004 Sam Hocevar
    14 rue de Plaisance, 75014 Paris, France
  Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim or modified
  copies of this license document, and changing it is allowed as long
  as the name is changed.

                        DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO PUBLIC LICENSE
      TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR COPYING, DISTRIBUTION AND MODIFICATION

    0. You just DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO.

Re:zzz (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266625)

That sounds like the license Rob Malda released his gaping wide red swollen asshole under.

They can't get smaller than JESUS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266567)

JESUS is everywhere, meaning that HE is about the size of the planck space. Also, I fucked your sister.

Re:They can't get smaller than JESUS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266821)

Also, I fucked your sister.

pre-op or post?

well thats more just the processor... (3, Insightful)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266579)

rather than the whole computer, i see no reason why consumer computers need ever get any smaller than a phone if you want it portable, or small enough to be fitted to the back of a screen for desktops

Re:well thats more just the processor... (5, Insightful)

Mozk (844858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266591)

Smaller transistors means more efficient transistors. It's not just about size.

Reminds me of a question... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266621)

for woman only - what would you prefer, big and floppy or small and naughty? :-)

Re:Reminds me of a question... (0, Offtopic)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266787)

Dude, of course they will prefer the expensive one.

Re:Reminds me of a question... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266817)

Bro, don't call me dude.

Re:Reminds me of a question... (1)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266865)

Don't dude me bro!

Re:Reminds me of a question... (0, Offtopic)

Seriousity (1441391) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266851)

big and floppy or small and 0y

There, fixed that for you.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (5, Insightful)

Hylk0r (1295086) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266947)

Not only that, but it also means you can have millions of (parallel) processors on a tiny chip, which results into more performance.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267117)

You seem to think computers operate using a combination of "processors" and "magic". You are mistaken.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

Ragzouken (943900) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267213)

You can't really quote "magic" if he didn't say it.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (2, Funny)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267215)

You seem to think computers operate using a combination of "processors" and "magic". You are mistaken.

You just rocked my world view.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267271)

So they just use magic then?

Re:well thats more just the processor... (2, Funny)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267295)

mostly, yeah.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

Sabz5150 (1230938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267697)

You seem to think computers operate using a combination of "processors" and "magic". You are mistaken.

NOT LISTENING TO YOU!!! The magic smoke is REAL!!! It's real magic!!! And love, the secret ingredient is love, damnit!!!

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26269125)

And love, the secret ingredient is love, damnit!!!

Funny, my computers work just fine. <Kicks cat&$@#*% NO CARRIER

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

renoX (11677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267019)

>Smaller transistors means more efficient transistors.

Not always.
Those molecule sized transistors are much more efficient yes, but this rule isn't true anymore for the transistors we have in our current CPUs..

That's why now the frequency that our CPU doesn't increase anymore, it used to be to each generation of transistors were smaller and were more efficient so you could make the CPU run faster, but as this stopped the increase of frequency of our CPU has stopped also.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267139)

That's why now the frequency that our CPU doesn't increase anymore,

Efficiency != speed. While speed has remained stagnant over the past several years, power consumption and heat dissipation have gone down or remained the same while computations/second have still steadily gone up, which means higher efficiency as less energy is used to do the same amount of work. If you're still measuring the quality of a processor by its speed, then you have a lot of catching up to do since 2003 when the GHz race ceased to be relevant.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267317)

The problem is synchronization of the electronics. When you reach a certain speed the speed of electron flow comes into play. Likewise the shape of the ramp than denotes the hi / low states becomes an issue. When you 'scope what you believe to be a square wave you'll see that the edge is not the 90 degree edge one tends to think these waveforms are.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

beaverbrother (586749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267029)

Smaller transistors means more efficient transistors. It's not just about size.

It also means noisy circuits.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (2, Funny)

Esvandiary (1302095) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267935)

It also means noisy circuits.

You mean like in Formula 1?

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266627)

Claytronics for example need further miniaturization. Tiny dust specs that communicate with other specs to barbapappa-build any product you'll ever need.

In the 1960s (5, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266639)

There was, as I recall, a TV programme in the UK called "Tomorrow's World" in which the presenter once prophetically ridiculed the idea of handheld computers. After all, what could you possibly use them for?

Combine this kind of idea with recent research on PNA (a more robust molecule than DNA which shares many of the properties) and the long term prospects could be very interesting - self-assembling memory, for instance.

Re:In the 1960s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267839)

I, for one, welcome our new sentient, self-assembling, computer overlords... (I shall also endeavor not to step on them accidently as they become smaller and more powerful).

Re:In the 1960s (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268679)

But what would one do with a handheld that's smaller than today's? Seriously a lot of those devices have already hit the point where they're difficult for some of us to use due to the tiny buttons. I'm not sure that shrinking the size much more is going to make any sense for most people. Sure you can change the interface possibly to voice activation or direct neural interface, but tiny electronics are easy to lose.

I'm sure there's reasons why shrinking the electronics within the shell is desirable, but small for the sake of small has been dumb for most of the lifespan of the iPod. At a certain point the problems of ergonomics and management become the predominating factor.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (5, Insightful)

locster (1140121) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266807)

OK but what if you want to put them inside nanobots designed to target and kill cancer cells or a zillion other applications that are made possible by smaller and less power hungry computation? Smaller also means more powerful computers at the 'classic' scale, for which we know there is demand for right now by way of the very existence of supercomputers.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

sanyacid (768747) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267089)

There is whole bunch of reasons why would we want smaller transistor replacement. It's not just about "consumer computers".

Re:well thats more just the processor... (0, Redundant)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267385)

And 640K of memory is enough for anyone...

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267447)

rather than the whole computer, i see no reason why consumer computers need ever get any smaller than a phone if you want it portable, or small enough to be fitted to the back of a screen for desktops

Why on earth would you want to interact with a computer via a screen? I want reality overlay, and some sort of neural interface (coupled with a gesture interface.) Ideally the computer that performed these functions would be no larger than a single chip to make implantation easier. Nasal cavity, mastoid, something (the latter is a little dangerous, in an impact it could become a serious health issue. But anyway.)

Re:well thats more just the processor... (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267635)

Remember back in 1984 when the first Mac was released touted at a size of a stack of paper. Considered small and light enough to move anywhere. Then when the laptops (real Laptops, not the luggable) were released while today are considered huge and bulky but at the time they were small enough to carry with your books.
As computing shrinks our idea of size goes down too. The Stack of paper Mac, was considered really small because computing at the time the easiest job for moving anything with computing was the stack of green bar paper to the line printer. Then as they shrunk to the size of laptops and notebooks they are smaller then the books you have to carry (at the time) anyways. So small enough for your needs. But as time progresses the need to carry the books and just your laptop. Now we are starting to get decent performance out of the pocket cellphone size, where it is that much easier to carry. However still you need pockets or some way to keep it attached to your person. I would predict actually stylish warble Computers in the future, just as the bluetooth headsets are becoming today. But perhaps comfortable glasses, or audio based computation. If audio based computation then it may get smaller to say technology that can be implanted in your ear wax, for a semi permeant hold of the technology. The problem is we tend to think of computing as we do now. Such back in 1984 where computing was used in conjunctions with large books, a lot of paper and was used as we use a TI8x series calculator today. But then as their performance increases the way that we do work with computers have changed. And it will change in the future too.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268123)

Have you thought of the potential saved cubicle space!? Slap a "pico" desktop box into a head mounted display, give the wage-slave a keyboard, and convert half your current cubicle space into those honeycomb sleep spaces (have 'em get in feet first so you can periodically come by and knock them on the head to make sure they're not dozing off)!! The other half of the cubicle space can be used by management to treat themselves for saving so much on power usage and reducing inefficient office banter. I'm thinking a putting green, or maybe a sauna/spa. Something essential to increasing executive/management productivity, anyways.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26268141)

That's fine for you, if you like "classic" stuff. I don't want to carry a big fat phone to the beach ... I want all that built into my Sunglasses, so I can see the display, and remain online for IM, and check the Weather Radar every now and then ... and I want to wade into the water with them, so no extra pack on my belt ... all the processing molecules need to fit into the sunglasses.

Re:well thats more just the processor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26268965)

That's a 640k should be enough for anyone kinda statement. I'd like consumer computers small enough to fit into the interstices of my brain and spinal column, thanks.

Uh (1)

Mozk (844858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266585)

How about some actual data? This article is extremely watered-down ("1/100 of a nanometre (that is one hundred millionth of a millimetre!)") and essentially has nothing beside speculation about what these transistors can be used for. They don't even say what element the atoms are for fuck's sake. It's pretty amazing that they made the equivalent of 14 transistors with 30 atoms, but the article makes it sound like they just pushed some atoms together under a microscope.

Re:Uh (1)

Ender_Stonebender (60900) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266855)

I didn't actually RTFA (yet), but they probably did just push atoms together under a microscope (although doing so would require specialized equipment which is more than simply a "microscope"). The damn thing will probably fly apart once it gets above more than few tens of degrees absolute. It's great if they can put a P4 chip on the head of a pin and not need a huge heatsink for it - but it's useless if you need to carry around a couple of thousand pounds worth of cooling equipment to use it.

(Having read TFA in between writing this - you're right, the article sucks. "Joachim and his team have used the technique to build tiny nano-machines, such as wheels, gears, motors and nano-vehicles each consisting of a single molecule." Nano-machines can't consisting of a single molecule - they wouldn't be able to do any work.)

Re:Uh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267593)

Nano-machines can't consisting of a single molecule - they wouldn't be able to do any work.

Sentences can't consisting of verbs with wrong tenses - they wouldn't be able to make any sense.

How small can computers get? (3, Insightful)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266589)

Is the wrong question I think. The size of the "computer" is really dictated by the interface. It would be great to have a computer the size of a halfpenny, but how would you access it?

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

hdima (259063) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266633)

Not a problem. You just need to interconnect such computers to create data-center inside of your phone.

Re:How small can computers get? (2, Insightful)

reset_button (903303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266841)

That's only if a human needs to interface with it directly. If the tiny computer had networking capabilities, you could access it through that. How about a pre-programmed computer that collect data from their surroundings? They could be injected into a person's blood stream for health monitoring, spread around the worlds oceans, and even dispersed in the atmosphere. And that's just one direction that you could go with this. Don't limit your thinking to the computer that you're sitting in front of.

Re:How small can computers get? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267057)

> They could be injected into a person's blood stream for health monitoring

I'd rather have a very small, but not microscopic, computer in some known place in my body, than those nanobots in my blood. At least the former can only screw up their direct environment in those 'whatcouldpossiblygowrong' moments.

Re:How small can computers get? (4, Funny)

Kugrian (886993) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267071)

Electronic viraga?

"Mind passing me my phone before we start? Just need to SSH into my penis."

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

iNaya (1049686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267137)

Although I normally get pissed off by crude jokes, that was extraordinarily funny. Thanks.

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268737)

Yeah, you're right, SSH is totally inappropriate. It should be a VPN so you can send other things there.

Re:How small can computers get? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267249)

Do you mind if I tunnel in? You see I am behind a great firewall.

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268023)

Which emBEDded OS would it run!?

Re:How small can computers get? (3, Funny)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268333)

Lets hope not windows as I'd hate to get the BBOD (Blue Balls of Death).

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

dodobh (65811) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268043)

Electronic blowjobs! Who needs viagra when you can directly control the brain?

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266891)

That will only be a problem until the invention of a telepathic interface.

How small can a computer get if it is implanted into your brain?

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

carvalhao (774969) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267009)

Brain interface. Put the half-penny computer inside your skull and you just got yourself a co-processor :D

Re:How small can computers get? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267291)

Put the half-penny computer inside...

Put the half-penny computer inside your skull and you've given it a heatsink.
Put the half-penny computer inside your brain and you've given it a buggy coprocessor.
Put the half-penny computer inside another half-penny computer and you've got a penny.

Haha. Death to the humans!

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267193)

It would be great to have a computer the size of a halfpenny

Uh, you mean, like the CPU in the computer that you're using right now?

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268967)

A CPU doesnt make a computer, a CPU is a computer in need of a power supply, memory, clock source and BIOS. Fit that all on a penny and call me back.

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267253)

You can always do what we do all the time: make it the size of the current processor and say that it is a million times faster.

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267305)

but how would you access it?

Just what I was thinking. Obviously other technologies would have to be developed alongside this processor/memory/whatever form it eventually possibly takes.

The day is coming though when we can take a piece of 'paper' from our pocket and the paper is the computer. The possibilities in regards to pervasive computing are interesting.

The true question isn't about when they can make a full usable computer using this technology. The real show-stopper is when they can make it affordable and market it in a world already tied to the use of earlier formats and protocols.

Why is this insightful?!! (2, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268233)

There are these things called radio waves. They're used to transmit and receive data without the need for wires. You should try 'em, I've heard they're all the rage! I've even heard they can make the receivers/transmitters really small. [everythingusb.com] Personally, I'm pretty sure this a just a fad.
STOP
I'll stick with my telegraph, thank you very much.
STOP

Yabbut (1)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268953)

You'd still need a USB port, last I looked even a micro-B receptacle wouldn't fit in my ha'penny....:-)

Re:How small can computers get? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268351)

You wouldn't have a computer the size of a halfpenny. You'd have a computer the size of a cell-phone, with the processing power of a 32-node Beowulf cluster.

If you have one of those, you have exactly zero use for the cloud: so long as you have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, your computer can be exactly where you are.

Obviously, you want some backup, but that is easily solved by have two or three of these things, one of which sits on your desk, and you sync to it when you're at home, so if you lose your portable, you still have your fully operational system from the last sync.

iPod shuffle size of its controls (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268461)

Its the size of its two controls, a clip, and phone jack. Fortunately a battery, flsah memory, and basc computer fits inside the same form factor.

..and (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266595)

Angels dancing on the head of a pin time (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266609)

Really the question is how small becomes impractical? I remember the calculator cold wars. It hit the limit when everyone realized how silly a pen one was when you couldn't read the display or use it without a tiny stylus. Eventually the cost of reducing the size will be astronomical so even if you can what's the point? We can make antimatter fuel it's just so insanely expensive that without a major technical leap you aren't going to be powering a car much less a starship with it. There may be uses justifying continuing to reduce computer size but already they are about as fast as people need for most apps so the biggest benefits would be power useage and cramming more computers into places they don't belong. Expensive doesn't make for good disposables so it'll have limitations. It's exciting stuff but don't hold your breath on having a super computer the size of a pin head. Can it be done? Yes. Will it be practical? Unlikely.

Re:Angels dancing on the head of a pin time (2, Insightful)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267133)

Nanocomputers are very practical. Consider only the applications in biotechnology - computers that tiny would allow for everything from intelligent nanobots to do cellular level maintenance to a nanobot conglomerate that could actually replace failing cells - even complicated ones like neurons. And if you can create a neuron, you can create a nervous system. And if you can create a brain... I'm oversimplifying it, but you get the idea. We're not strictly talking about biotechnology anymore, are we?

Re:Angels dancing on the head of a pin time (1)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267337)

Create cells? We've got to understand them first! We'll all be having nano-ipods implanted in our skulls before we even come close to being able to engineer one human cell.

Re:Angels dancing on the head of a pin time (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267951)

We can make antimatter fuel it's just so insanely expensive that without a major technical leap you aren't going to be powering a car much less a starship with it

We can? Link to article?

Re:Angels dancing on the head of a pin time (1)

Blublu (647618) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268121)

"There may be uses justifying continuing to reduce computer size but already they are about as fast as people need for most apps so the biggest benefits would be power useage and cramming more computers into places they don't belong." There's so much wrong with that sentence, I don't even know where to begin.

halfway there? (2, Insightful)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266611)

The real key to all of these and all non-trivial efforts at Nano technology is for these devices to be self assembling. By non-trivial I mean other than "simple" things like nanotubes or quantum dots. These simple compounds can now be produced in industrial quantities through basically chemical/physical means.

While it is very very impressive that they can do this, in order for this to become practical, they will have to make millions, no billions, no trillions, no quadrillions... of these things at once or they have to be able to duplicate/reproduce themselves. The (self) "assembler" is, of course, the holy grail of nano-tech.

Hope I see it before I die and that it doesn't cause my (and all of our) deaths! :P

Re:halfway there? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268445)

Assuming such a self-assembler was created, I would expect it to require some very controlled situation for reproduction - extremely high temperatures, or extremely cold ones, or possibly a flow moving from 400 Kelvin, followed by a rapid cooling to 150 K, then a move to room temperature, at which point the process could be repeated, given enough materials to produce more.

Such materials would probably just be raw Carbon, hydrogen, and maybe a few other obvious elements, but I wouldn't be surprised if you needed something a bit more scarce.

And at any case, I doubt we'll get something that can use raw organic material as fuel without leaving the 250-330 K range. (Which would be required to cause all of our deaths.)

How small can they get? Do they run Vista? (2, Interesting)

Seriousity (1441391) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266675)

An uncle of mine works as a deputy mayor for the local government here, and was quite pleased to find out that everybody, including him, that worked in the council would be given a free new laptop. Naturally, he imagined that it would be smaller and faster - alas, now his job is far harder as he has to lug around a big heavy slow piece of shite.

Meanwhile, atomic-scale computing is created, and at this stage its hard to say whether this is a step or a giant leap in the right direction.

Re:How small can they get? Do they run Vista? (1, Flamebait)

Subverted (1436551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266715)

People actually use Vista?!

Re:How small can they get? Do they run Vista? (2, Funny)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267347)

No, but someone ported Linux to it...:D

Soo... (4, Interesting)

Subverted (1436551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266707)

30 atoms doing the work of 14 transistors... Does this mean that the amount of transistors(logic gates) able to be fit on a chip is now more than exponentially larger? Of course, depending on how easy this would be to adapt to commercial production(and get them talking to eachother) might it be the plateau that Moore's law predicts?

No (or rather, probably not) (2, Informative)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267231)

> is now more than exponentially larger?

It's impossible to tell if it's scaling linearly or exponentially or whatever from just one data point; however, unless the atoms are working in a totally different computing paradigm (like quantum computing), it's unlikely to be more than just a linear factor of improvement.

Re:Soo... (1)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267265)

might it be the plateau that Moore's law predicts?

Yes:

In terms of size [of transistor] you can see that we're approaching the size of atoms which is a fundamental barrier, but it'll be two or three generations before we get that farâ"but that's as far out as we've ever been able to see. We have another 10 to 20 years before we reach a fundamental limit. By then they'll be able to make bigger chips and have transistor budgets in the billions.

-Gordon Moore, 2005 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law#Ultimate_limits_of_the_law [wikipedia.org]

Nanotransistors - Nanocomputers? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26266767)

I prefer to think in Nanotransistors->far more powerful not-nanoscale computers, at least in mid-term. Molecule sized memory, in example could be a big hit in all areas if an efficient cheap way of production is reached (genetic engineered cows that gives milk of memory? bacterias?).

But about complete computers, well, still dont know if all components could be stick together in a single molecule, or that it retains all the components functionality in that way.

neurons x molecular computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26266943)

If they can make computers that small, maybe they can make a billion-core processor smaller then our brains and more powerful?

Damn (2, Funny)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267011)

Sometimes I misplace my laptop. How will if find my tiny computer
in the future? Will I wash it by mistake? Can it take the dry cycle?

Grrrrr.

Wow (4, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267055)

And you thought laptop screws were hard to find when you drop them on the living room carpet...

And about two picoseconds later... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267081)

Software nerds will find a way to bring quadrillions of picotransistors to a crawl by making everything so abstract, so complex, so unnecessarily cryptic that it will require 25 quabillion clock cycles to process a single keystroke, and people will still think they need faster hardware.

Well isn't that nice (1)

tietokone-olmi (26595) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267103)

But what will you do for I/O, then?

eBp!?.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267105)

at times. From They're gone Mac Mr. Raymond's shitheads. *BSD just yet, but I'm 486//6 3ith 8 see. The number of the above

How Small? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267111)

PicoTech?

Or is Nano the smallest?

I'm not entirely sure of the interactions at the pico- scale to comment on the possibility.

What about cosmic rays ? (4, Interesting)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267219)

A bit of radiation whizzing by would not just 'flip a bit' and make the computer/program crash (or even worse - produce an erronious result) but could dislodge a few atoms and physically damage the computer.

So are we going to have to shield tiny computers with an inch of lead ?

Re:What about cosmic rays ? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267429)

Doesn't normal RAM get hit by cosmic rays and radiation? AFAIK it also suffers from bits being flipped incorrectly. Even Flash memory suffers from individual cells dying without much problem.

I am sure there are ways to offer redundancy and failover between molecules, eg. you could create self assembling groups which all do the same calculation, a controller could then decide which ones are right based on probability, dead molecules could be marked in the FAT... err I mean the MAT.

Most of the technology we use today is being bombarded, changed and destroyed by cosmic rays and radiation. The fact that these molecules are smaller means it might be easier to make them more resilient to attack from the cosmos, we certainly will have a lot more to play with.

Re:What about cosmic rays ? (2, Funny)

loafula (1080631) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267493)

No, we won't need to shield them with lead. The 6 foot thick heat sinks should suffice.

Re:What about cosmic rays ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267851)

With computers on this scale, it wouldn't be too hard to have an entire backup of the memory sitting to the side of the main memory, maybe with some extra to hold a checksum of the memory, or similar.
3 copies of them and you make things much easier.
2/3s > 1/3 > 1/2 + checksum. The likeliness of corruption is significantly reduced using this method. (and i believe this is how Flash is done? I read that somewhere...)

By the time these come into production, computers will be much faster that this wouldn't impact speed at all.
It could be built directly into the RAM chips.

Wasn't there some patent on here about protecting memory from cosmic rays?

Re:What about cosmic rays ? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26268787)

A bit of radiation whizzing by would not just 'flip a bit' and make the computer/program crash (or even worse - produce an erronious result) but could dislodge a few atoms and physically damage the computer.

So are we going to have to shield tiny computers with an inch of lead ?

Instead they will be like modern computers with fault detection, error correction and automatic rerouting.

Won't work near Tchernobyl (2, Interesting)

bad_alloc (1441453) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267225)

If the atoms get hit by some radiation the molecule should either break or (if hit whilst calculating) return a wrong value. So basically you'll have to cover your computer with 8 cm of lead, which istn't exactly in EU health standards.

Simple logic gate takes 14 transistors? (1)

klashn (1323433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267415)

A simple logic gate as mentioned in the summary would be AND, OR, XOR, NAND, NOR, XNOR, INVERTER. The positive logic gates (AND, OR, not sure about XOR) take 4 transistors to implement, while the negative logic gates take 2 to implement. The INVERTEr also takes two transistors to implement. How can 30 atoms replace 14 transistors to create a "simple logic gate" ? To me, it doesn't get simpler than the logic gates mentioned above.

Easily Damaged? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267461)

Now, see, this is the thing that always worries me about the ever-shrinking computers that come out each year: damage.

You drop a computer, you're screwed.
That is how weak computers are these days.
What will it take to break one of these things? Breathing on them? God forbid you sneeze on the poor bugger.

We need computers that can self-repair first.
But a computer that could self-repair would be against business norms, building a "perfect" device invites lost profits because nobody would need to buy things again.
I guess there could be a kill-switch in them, or a limited amount of material they could use to fix.
Or redundancy, say for example, slightly more RAM than you are told about, but it is used in case other RAM dies. None of the RAM will be repaired, just rerouted to the extra RAM.

Damn monies.

Re:Easily Damaged? (1)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267611)

You drop a computer, you're screwed.

If the computer has a hard disk with moving parts and a giant, heavy heatsink that will chip the processor, then yes, you're correct. Drop a mini-ITX PC with a SSD and no heatsink and you'll find that there's really not much you can do to it aside from cracking the motherboard to bring it down. I'm sure you've dropped your cell phone numerous times (If not then congrats, you're abnormally un-clumsy) and unless it's pretty severe, it'll be just fine. One of the primary benefits of solid-state electronics is that they are virtually unaffected by kinetic trauma.

Heat and memory biggest issues... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267553)

... that are facing computing. CPU speed is far out-stripping storage and memory bandwidth. More efficient transistors = nice, but LESS robust to defects = bad. I have to wonder how fragile these atom transistors will be. I'm wondering if we're approaching a point where having too few atoms leads to much higher failure rate.

I can't be the only one thinking about how expensive this is going to be.

Re:Heat and memory biggest issues... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268911)

Reliability decreases with pow(number of atoms per transistor, 2/3), now when you apply some kind of error correcting, it increases with exp(number of transistors). If you maintain the chip size (that is, the number of atoms is constant), and the functionality, reliability will just increase with smaler transistors.

You get reduced reliability only if you want those smaler transistors to do more than the big ones, and even then, when you want them to do a LOT more.

30 atoms (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26267657)

... ought to be enough for anybody...

A Beowulf cluster? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 5 years ago | (#26267857)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these! And a beowulf cluster of those clusters! Why, I could fit them on a matchstick head, call it W. Bush's brain!

what even happened to "smart dust"? (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#26268585)

Smart dust was supposed to be computers the size of glitter (square millimeter). Each would have a CPU, power access, and communications. These would be used for survellience and environmental monitoring. I recall labs simulating these with "domino-size" computers which can be constructed off the shelf.
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