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IBM Creates Commercially Viable, Electronic-Photonic Integrated Chip

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the when-your-powers-combine dept.

IBM 71

An anonymous reader writes "After more than a decade of research, and a proof of concept in 2010, IBM Research has finally cracked silicon nanophotonics (or CMOS-integrated nanophotonics, CINP, to give its full name). IBM has become the first company to integrate electrical and optical components on the same chip, using a standard 90nm semiconductor process. These integrated, monolithic chips will allow for cheap chip-to-chip and computer-to-computer interconnects that are thousands of times faster than current state-of-the-art copper and optical networks. Where current interconnects are generally measured in gigabits per second, IBM's new chip is already capable of shuttling data around at terabits per second, and should scale to peta- and exabit speeds."

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71 comments

More info (5, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year ago | (#42242829)

The article is remarkably lacking in technical details.

This article from two years ago is a little more detailed: http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4211151/IBM-debuts-CMOS-silicon-nanophotonics [eetimes.com]
or this press release: http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/33115.wss [ibm.com]

Re:More info (2, Insightful)

Shatrat (855151) | about a year ago | (#42242881)

It's also remarkably misleading. Infinera has been doing Photonic Integrated Circuits for a while now, but they're definitely not cheap.
The only thing IBM may have pioneered is doing it on Silicon. Infinera uses Indium Phosphide.

Re:More info (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42243023)

The only thing IBM may have pioneered is doing it on Silicon. Infinera uses Indium Phosphide.

What they've done hardly sounds like a small thing. They've gone from lab-scale to commercial-scale, at least in the lab (if that makes sense).

They're not the first to make this kind of chip, but they've advanced the state of the art. There aren't many times when a completely new invention comes out, most of the time it's baby steps like this.

Re:More info (2)

Shatrat (855151) | about a year ago | (#42243163)

Infinera was at commercial scale around 7 years ago, at 100Gigabit speeds (10x10Gbit/s). They're very expensive, but cheaper than 10 discrete OTU2/OC192/10GbE LAN-PHY transponders with optics. From what I've read in article, IBM may possibly be able to use this to lower the cost of LR4 optics in routers, at least that's what they seem to be aiming at. It won't give us the ability to do anything we can't already do today, though.

Re:More info (4, Insightful)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#42243257)

It won't give us the ability to do anything we can't already do today, though.

Yes, it will. It will give you the ability to afford the technology, so that applications may turn up in places where you would not be able to put an Infinera type device.

Re:More info (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42243815)

You mean we can make the north/south bridge, memory controller, and graphics chipsets discrete components again without a performance impact? And a new PCI standard that includes 4 copper pins for power plus several optical pins for data, with expansion cards being roughly as low-latency and high-bandwidth as on-CPU-dye integrated chipsets? How about system RAM access at almost L2 cache speeds?

Re:More info (2)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#42244189)

You can't afford RAM at L2 speeds, and thats what the problem has always been.

Re:More info (3, Informative)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42244579)

RAM is incredibly fast. L1 cache is SRAM and faster; RAM access requires a whole lot of shit with slow clocking. There's a lot of latency because there's a memory controller between everything that works out how to send commands across and get data and put it in the CPU, mostly because just accessing RAM outright by attaching it to CPU pins doesn't work anymore (and partly because the memory controller adds features, but that's become less of an effect). Seriously the CPU can clock a few times by the time access requests actually reaches the RAM.

Re:More info (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42245499)

RAM is incredibly fast

Compared to disk, maybe, but time from request to first byte at the pin level on DRAM is still at least 60 CPU clock cycles (@ 3 GHz.) Add in all the rest of the delays (memory controller, caches, TLBs, etc., etc.) and you get a situation where you might as well context-switch if you get a cache miss, since your pipeline is going to be empty or stalled for hundreds or thousands of clock cycles.

Re:More info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42250535)

Hyper-threading can context switch with 1-cycle latency and does so on almost any pipeline bubble, including memory-stalls. A heavy compute thread with great pre-fetching isn't going to benefit much, but more random work loads typically see increases in throughput.

Re:More info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42248063)

RAM is incredibly fast.

Static RAM, sure. But not dynamic RAM. That stuff is ridiculously slow. Maybe 200 MHz tops...?

Today's DRAM may look fast on the specs, but its really just a bag of tricks. A single column may contain 1024 bits or more, which is then dumped to a static RAM buffer and then pumped out of the chip at high speeds while the next column is prepared. Works great for contiguous chunks of data, but not so great for truly random access.

Re:More info (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#42283783)

You're comparing different types of RAM and pretending they are the same.

I said you can't afford gigabytes of RAM running at those speeds. You can not afford gigabytes of SRAM running at full CPU speed. I'd say it again, but you'll still pretend I said something else.

IF you could, you wouldn't need a memory controller in the way.

And those few CPU cycles you speak of ... are nothing compared to the waits spent while the data is fetched, buffered and latched by DRAM. Of course some of those cycles are spent trying to do a cache hit on L1 ... then L2 ... then commanding the memory controller which may have to wait due to a DRAM refresh in progress ... and all these things are still trivial compared to the access speed of the DRAM itself.

Slow DRAM (even your PC-9BILLION sticks of DDR360000 you use in your super fast machine is still slower than balls compared to the expensive as all fuck L1 SRAM.

Re:More info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42250719)

L1/L2 cache is great at smaller sizes, but it has a size/performance trade-off. Even if you could afford the cost, it logically cannot maintain the same speed when getting to the sizes you want.

eDRAM I could see being useful. It allows for better size scaling, but not quite as fast as modern L1/L2, but a good cross between L3 and regular system memory.

Re:More info (1)

Shatrat (855151) | about a year ago | (#42243941)

The hypothetical IBM chip is not a competitor to the Infinera device, it's a competitor to CFPs and CXPs produced using discrete optical and electronic components.

Re:More info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42244593)

The salient point seems to be that this is the first time anyone has demonstrated electronic-photoic chips that can be mass-produced cheaply.

I admit I'm not familiar with this field, but to the neophyte it seems like an important step in the evolution of the technology.

Do you disagree? If so, could you explain, in layman's terms, why?

Re:More info (2)

Shatrat (855151) | about a year ago | (#42246309)

Because, they have not demonstrated that it can be mass-produced cheaply. They're still doing these in a lab. They may be using standard 90mm lithography process, but they're using non-standard wafers with some exotic bits stuck in there like germanium and carbon nanotubes. Whether they can produce this with the kind of success rate needed to make it worthwhile is yet to be seen.

Re:More info (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#42243089)

How is it misleading? It says right in the summary that their claim is that the use silicon and "standard 90nm semiconductor processes". The Infinera site says that Infinera were able to accomplish their stuff 'by not having to evolve existing manufacturing'. So it sounds quite a bit different to me.

Re:More info (1)

Shatrat (855151) | about a year ago | (#42243987)

I say misleading because both TFS and TFA headlines say commercially viable. When you actually dig into it you find out this has never left the lab. It also implies that something like this hasn't been done before. It has, just not on silicon. And, IBM still can't do it purely on doped silicon. If you read deeper the wafer has to include a germanium layer and carbon nanotubes for the optical components.

Re:More info (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42243519)

So, cheap, easy-to-manipulate materials and a process compatible with modern fabrication techniques and machinery? As opposed to exotic, expensive metal ceramics requiring different processes and separate facilities? That's kind of revolutionary. It's like having all this propane gas that you liquefy, and then discovering how to modify engines by shaping steel components slightly different (i.e. a compound machine) to use propane gas instead of liquid fuel. (We actually have experimental gasoline engines that diesel up to 40mph; eventually we'll have engines that can run on diesel fuel or petrol...)

Re:More info (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#42244095)

Misleading, perhaps... but in all fairness, the headline doesn't at all actually say that IBM were the first ones to do it... only that they did.

Re:More info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42251503)

Luxtera have been doing this in silicon for years now, and in an affordable commercial product.

Re:More info (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#42242929)

The article is remarkably lacking in technical details.

Maybe they are waiting for the patent applications to be processed, before giving out too many details . . . ?

Re:More info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42242933)

And they'll offshore the manufacturing after probably sucking millions of dollars in U.S. grants or tax credits to develop the technology.

Re:More info (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#42246039)

The article is remarkably lacking in technical details.

It's just a prototype. The commercially-viable article will be ready in two years.

OpSIS (4, Interesting)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | about a year ago | (#42242897)

http://opsisfoundry.org/ [opsisfoundry.org]

OpSIS is a foundry service for integrated photonics/CMOS electronics, similar to MOSIS for CMOS. Academic and research institutions can get small lots of experimental designs built as part of a multi-chip wafer run. They support libraries of standard and example components, some modelling and rules decks. They plan several fab runs a year, and access, last time I checked, three different processes from different vendors. Carver Mead is a booster.

I had hoped to start designing with their rules a while ago, and got pulled into more immediate projects. I still think it's pretty cool, and would like to get back to it if ever I get a quiet moment.

Re:OpSIS (3, Informative)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | about a year ago | (#42242915)

One thing that's worth looking into - OpSIS hosts or points to web-based training and seminars several times a year, sometimes given by CAD vendors that support their design and fab processes. They are well worth sitting in for if you're trying to spin up on this stuff. Not a plug, just my own experience.

Don't plan a desktop upgrade yet (2)

Chewbacon (797801) | about a year ago | (#42242959)

FTFA: "Ultimately, we are talking about a standard computer chip that could be integrated into any electronic device, without significantly impacting the price." This is going for to be high-end applications for quite some time and pretty damn pricey when it first hits the desktop.

Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42242991)

I would love to know what the effect using optical interconnects has on power consumption and heat transmission.
I would presume lower in both, but probably not in orders of magnitude of thousands.
Fast, Cheap n' Frigid is want we want.**

** Is probably all we can get. :-P

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (4, Interesting)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42243653)

You've got to remember that all those rules are easily dismissed by converse. There's always a trade-off, you can make something faster but it becomes hotter, or more expensive, or less durable... lies. You can demonstratably make something expensive, slow, high-power, and low-durability by extremely inefficient process.

In economics people like to discuss job creators and wealth movement, trickle-up and trickle-down, the loss of businesses, poor people and rich people... but they fail to understand wealth. Take the "shop locally" thing... if you have a local bookstore versus Amazon, people tell you to shop locally because it "keeps the money in the community." Problem is the local bookstore is crap, they order from the big publishers and distributors, etc; some folks argue Walmart or B&N are as bad as Amazon and not like a local bookstore, but their stores still pay local taxes on their income, they still pay rent, hire sales people, and order from the same distributors.

Now let's say you order from Amazon because it's $10 cheaper. That money leaves the local community, but $10 stays ... you're $10 wealthier. The local bookstore has terrible selection and is expensive... it goes out of business. Meanwhile you've got a local farmer's market and you shop there with the extra $10 you have. That's wealth creation: you have the same goods (a book) plus more money ($10) to buy other goods (fresh food). If this is the general trend, the Farmer's Market garners that much more business, expands, and replaces the local book shop's place in the community--the community demand for a farmer's market was higher than a local bookstore, the community is now wealthier.

The same principle applies to the manufacture of goods. If you're doing something sloppy, develop a refinement. We didn't get to 3GHz CPUs by overclocking a 486 by 100 times and slapping on a big fan and heat sink; we streamlined the process to be 100 times more efficient, then paid the extra expense to downsize the process, took a smaller efficiency hit, jacked up the CPU speed, and added a big fan. Truth be told, we could run these things at half the speed and find that they last forever, they're a lot faster than the old 486, and they need all of a tiny little heat sink and maybe a fan (maybe not). Instead of building 32nm, we could continue to build 60nm and not pay the expense--but the 60nm equipment has gotten better and we get fewer bad chips and fewer defects and so much longer component life. We're there, we just threw more chips in 'cause we had 'em.

Essentially, we got faster, cheaper, and lower power, all at once. Then, we cranked up the speed, put more dollars into cutting-edge technology, and things became faster, hotter, and more expensive. We've gained wealth, though--we've gained it and we've spent it to get even more speed. We had all of speed, power consumption, and cost, and we paid the cost and power consumption gains back in and opted for even more speed. In the end, though, the output's still bigger than our original input.

We violated the silly "can't have everything" law every step of the way.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42243997)

We violated the silly "can't have everything" law every step of the way.

No actually we do not. You have correctly determined that optimization us rarely a zero-sum game. However you've forgotten that the "fast, cheap, good; choose two" rule only applies when holding technology static. In your example you advance technology (adding Amazon.com) and demonstrate how the new technology allows a new better set of optimizations. However you do not address the problem that for example: if you buy from Amazon you need to either wait for your book (cheap, good) or you need to pay extra for shipping (fast, good). And of coarse if you buy locally you only get (fast).

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (3, Insightful)

inputdev (1252080) | about a year ago | (#42244109)

In economics people like to discuss job creators and wealth movement, trickle-up and trickle-down, the loss of businesses, poor people and rich people... but they fail to understand wealth. Take the "shop locally" thing... if you have a local bookstore versus Amazon, people tell you to shop locally because it "keeps the money in the community." Problem is the local bookstore is crap, they order from the big publishers and distributors, etc; some folks argue Walmart or B&N are as bad as Amazon and not like a local bookstore, but their stores still pay local taxes on their income, they still pay rent, hire sales people, and order from the same distributors. Now let's say you order from Amazon because it's $10 cheaper. That money leaves the local community, but $10 stays ... you're $10 wealthier. The local bookstore has terrible selection and is expensive... it goes out of business. Meanwhile you've got a local farmer's market and you shop there with the extra $10 you have. That's wealth creation: you have the same goods (a book) plus more money ($10) to buy other goods (fresh food). If this is the general trend, the Farmer's Market garners that much more business, expands, and replaces the local book shop's place in the community--the community demand for a farmer's market was higher than a local bookstore, the community is now wealthier.

The problem is that the local bookstore doesn't have to be crap to go out of business, and why does someone who decides to save $10 by buying from amazon decide to shop at a farmer's market (less convenient, can be more expensive) instead of a grocery store? I know you have a good point about what makes the community wealthier, but there are advantages to having retail stores in your area beyond price and selection - I like having a downtown to stroll around and look at things in shops, and I know I'm not alone - I don't want to see a bunch of failing businesses with scary homeless people begging for change (this is the way it's headed) with the "normal" people isolated in their suburban house getting goods shipped to the house.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42244543)

The problem is that the local bookstore doesn't have to be crap to go out of business, and why does someone who decides to save $10 by buying from amazon decide to shop at a farmer's market (less convenient, can be more expensive) instead of a grocery store?

The point was to show wealth creation. In any case the community is less interested in a local bookstore than in having $10; having $10 instead of not having $10 (you have the book either way) is having more. In all cases, something else will replace a failed business--it always does. Usually many somethings--where I live, dozens of businesses start and fail every day; I've been down to town hall to start a business, I've seen how many people come in and out every day, most of them will fail. Something will take hold, be that a Farmer's market or a new fish store or a brand new strip club.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (2)

dcollins (135727) | about a year ago | (#42244809)

"In all cases, something else will replace a failed business--it always does."

Now, that's just flat-out religious belief. Places like Detroit or other pure ghost towns serve as counterexamples.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#42246933)

Well, there's two different things here - will certain places run out of work or will the world "run out" of work, as certain post-post-post-modern world futurists have predicted. Despite what is happening in the US and parts of Europe, if you look at the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, China, India) or the OECD report you'll see that the world isn't exactly running out of jobs, they're just not created in the "Old World". In fact despite all the trouble in the developed world, extreme poverty is on its way down [worldbank.org]:

More recent post-2008 analysis reveals that, while the food, fuel and financial crises over the past four years had at times sharp negative impacts on vulnerable populations and slowed the rate of poverty reduction in some countries, global poverty overall kept falling. In fact, preliminary survey-based estimates for 2010 - based on a smaller sample size than in the global update -indicate that the $1.25 a day poverty rate had fallen to under half of its 1990 value by 2010.

Most other indicators like literacy, life expectancy etc. also indicate that the world is overall moving forwards. I think it's more globalization that's catching up to us, if you outsource the low-end jobs and keep the high-end jobs here then eventually they graduate and take the high-end jobs too. If anyone thought you could keep design and management here without hands-on knowledge from production and maintenance they were fooling themselves. Sure it doesn't happen right away, it takes a decade or two. Coincidentally, it's now a decade or two since outsourcing became the "big thing".

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42244845)

In any case the community is less interested in a local bookstore than in having $10; having $10 instead of not having $10 (you have the book either way) is having more.

You can't make that conclusion because markets don't work like that - purchasing decisions are not the same as endorsements/voting decisions. It may be that everyone in the community individually value the bookstore more than 10$, but each person in the community realizes that their individual 10$ isn't going to make any difference - the bookstore will go out of business or not regardless of whether or not they contribute 10$. So none of them contribute and the bookstore has no customers, even though it would be better for all the people in question if they all contributed 10$. The bookstore is a commons that everyone wants to benefit from having but they don't want to contribute to it if their contribution isn't going to matter anyway - which it won't. All the people are perfectly justified in simultaneously valuing the bookstore above 10$ and not contributing 10$ to it.

The rational way out for those people would be to vote in a subsidy for the bookstore and be happy in paying 10$ each. That's why you need both markets and votes - they each do things that the other one cannot do but that is important to large groups of people. Spending money and endorsing or voting for something is completely different. Please never again make conclusions like "people don't spend money on X, so they place greater value on the money than on X." It simply doesn't work like that when X is something that requires more than one person to contribute.

Markets are for transactions where your money directly gets something that you want. Voting is for transactions where your individual input is meaningless to the outcome yet lots of people will benefit from the thing happening.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42245059)

Well apparently the local bookstore isn't supplying them a service that's outright worth their god damn $10 or they'd be there spending $10.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42245101)

Now let's say you order from Amazon because it's $10 cheaper. That money leaves the local community, but $10 stays ... you're $10 wealthier. The local bookstore has terrible selection and is expensive... it goes out of business. Meanwhile you've got a local farmer's market and you shop there with the extra $10 you have. That's wealth creation: you have the same goods (a book) plus more money ($10) to buy other goods (fresh food). If this is the general trend, the Farmer's Market garners that much more business, expands, and replaces the local book shop's place in the community--the community demand for a farmer's market was higher than a local bookstore, the community is now wealthier.

Interesting but oh, so very wrong. And it's wrong because it's a localized and on short term thinking. Its like the joke about drinking alcohol to kill weaker neurons, thus becoming smarter (or the "corporate fat trimming" game)

Let's extend a bit the frame of reference: say all in that community that want books will buy from Amazon and "earn" the $10. The $10 become disposable income and assuming enough of them decide to spend the $10 at Farmer's Market, the price for your vegies will increase - it's only natural to be so, the price is "whatever you are willing to pay" and people with more disposable income will likely be willing to pay more.

And that until the local farmers increase the price high enough to be seen in the place of the "bookstore keeper"... and be shot down because, you know? on Amazon, one is already able to buy Tuscan milk [amazon.com] by the gallon at possibly lower prices.
And... oh, gully... with the "earned" money the people in community may do such nice things!!!...
Like: deciding to get a mortgage for a home at super-inflated prices... because they are willing to pay more, they saved a lot, haven't they?... (sounds familiar when you think of US as the "community"?)
The result: a community will less capability of survival (local businesses being shot down) and with not much wealth after all.

Essentially, we got faster, cheaper, and lower power, all at once. Then, we cranked up the speed, put more dollars into cutting-edge technology, and things became faster, hotter, and more expensive. We've gained wealth, though--we've gained it and we've spent it to get even more speed. We had all of speed, power consumption, and cost, and we paid the cost and power consumption gains back in and opted for even more speed. In the end, though, the output's still bigger than our original input.

As for the meaning of "wealth": ever since the currency was floated, the "absolute wealth" is relative: the society no longer values it, but values "wealth increase rate". Doesn't strike you as peculiar that the finance people never judge an economy by the absolute value of the GDP, but only by the "grow rate"?
To put the problem in your term: as big would it be your current output, after so many businesses being shot down (and relocated in China), what are the chances that you'll still be able to stay relevant in the "growing race"? And if you are not able, how long until your "bigger output" will mean exactly nothing?

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42245327)

As for the meaning of "wealth": ever since the currency was floated, the "absolute wealth" is relative: the society no longer values it, but values "wealth increase rate". Doesn't strike you as peculiar that the finance people never judge an economy by the absolute value of the GDP, but only by the "grow rate"? To put the problem in your term: as big would it be your current output, after so many businesses being shot down (and relocated in China), what are the chances that you'll still be able to stay relevant in the "growing race"? And if you are not able, how long until your "bigger output" will mean exactly nothing?

Well the vast majority of the "poor" in this country--those who the US Census has established are living in abject poverty--own their home (46%), have air conditioning (76%, compared to 36% of all households in the US 30 years ago), are not overcrowded (94%, with over 67% having more than 2 rooms per person in their house), has more living space than the average person (modal average of all--i.e. the middle class) living in European big cities like Paris or London, owns a car (over 70%, with nearly 70% owning two or more cars), has a color TV (97%, more than half have multiple), has a VCR or DVD player (67%) and cable or satellite (over 50%), owns a microwave (73%), a stereo (over 50%), and an automatic dishwasher (over 30%). 89% assess that they have "enough" to eat at all times; 2% assess that they "often" do not have enough to eat; the remainder occasionally have less food than they consider ideal.

These are circa 2005. A poor person in 2005 on average has a house, car, food, TV, some kind of subscription TV service, air conditioning, a refrigerator, and even access to medical care. They have cell phones and telephone answering machines (damn, people still have land lines?), Internet access, and a luxury condo compared to a Parisian or Athenian.

If America weren't a debt society living on the edge of credit and facing imminent foreclosure, I'd say we were pretty wealthy here. As it is, we as a nation have run up our credit cards to the max and can't afford to pay them much longer, and we're just running them up further. All money is loaned into existence, loaned to the banks who loan to the people (businesses, mortgages, credit cards...) who buy stuff and pass those dollars to pay salaries supported ultimately by debt. The Federal Government borrows money from other countries, collecting debt money in taxes, with no asset base to work from. How dysfunctional.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42245553)

If America weren't a debt society living on the edge of credit and facing imminent foreclosure, I'd say we were pretty wealthy here. As it is, we as a nation have run up our credit cards to the max and can't afford to pay them much longer, and we're just running them up further. All money is loaned into existence, loaned to the banks who loan to the people (businesses, mortgages, credit cards...) who buy stuff and pass those dollars to pay salaries supported ultimately by debt. The Federal Government borrows money from other countries, collecting debt money in taxes, with no asset base to work from. How dysfunctional.

Quite a big if, indeed. Because the wealth defined like this is illusory, as not being sustainable... ran the race in the last 10 years on "performance enhancement drugs"... to bad they not a substitute for real performance.

And what pushed the Americans in living on debt rather than on honest earnings?
In my opinion, exactly the false dichotomy of "be efficient or die" and the corporatist way of action of "profit now, externalize the costs and the risks, responsibility towards the society be damned".
To exemplify, those $10 one saves by buying on Amazon: perhaps 3 of them would be better given (not even "invested" or "on loan") to the bookstore keeper to retrain her and help her start a business that makes sense and would be viable locally?
(For those about to yell: hold your horses; I know, I know... this is red-hot communism. Silly me to even think that there could be other - middle-ground - approaches, besides "be cheap or die"... Or "behave or you'll rot in jail, as sure as death and the taxes I'm paying to keep you there").

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42246015)

Nah, the answer of artificially funding a business because it's "better for the local economy" is as far off the mark as you can be. It simply doesn't correlate. What do you have then? A local business that's propped up by debt dollars injected into the economy by all the student loans and mortgages. Held for historical reasons, but not practically useful, and essentially acting as a broken window.

The debt economy came from FDR trying to get out of a depression by mandating that mortgages should be 30 years, more people should own houses, and there should be no gold standard backing the US Dollar. Instead, the dollar was just that: the US Dollar. After that, we started lending a hell of a lot more money, and the Fed issued money by debt rather than by note of claim to gold.

America was poor, so he got everyone a credit card.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42246195)

Nah, the answer of artificially funding a business because it's "better for the local economy" is as far off the mark as you can be. It simply doesn't correlate. What do you have then? A local business that's propped up by debt dollars injected into the economy by all the student loans and mortgages. Held for historical reasons, but not practically useful, and essentially acting as a broken window.

Without meaning any disrespect, I'd classify the above as a failure of imagination... (the risks of looking to the world through "principle based, black-and-white only glasses" - one doesn't look how to solve a problem, only how well possible solutions fit to some principle one keeps so dear)

E.g. what about transforming the bookstore in a coffee shop where one can read books? With a minor investment [aliexpress.com], even some eBooks can be made available on tablets owned by the coffee-shop. I know I'd spend some hours (and some money) every week, would it be close enough to my home; if there are others like me, possibly would be just enough to keep a former bookstore keeper in (another) business inside the community. Would this still be a "broken window"?

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42249710)

Changing the function of a bookstore is also an indication of a failing business model. If the bookstore can survive on its own, it's just a valuable evolution... unless another bookstore with a coffee shop opens, becomes vastly more popular, and the first bookstore dies out. On the other hand, if the first bookstore was going to die out anyway, they could still try to attract customers by altering the atmosphere. Of course, if the bookstore was going to die out, it means people are going to stop buying books (and you're better off with a coffee shop) or they found a better way to buy books (and we're back to folding because of a rival bookshop, this time Amazon, although another local bookstore with a coffee shop could do the same).

It's a broken window when you're trying to hold onto something that's useless. If folks in the community have no interest in a bookstore, but they go there and spend extra money because "it's good for the community," that's basically useless: it has an associated cost and is wasteful, and could be replaced with something better; at the very least, not doing this would raise the amount of money in peoples' pockets without taking anything away from them--the only reason they want the bookstore is because they think a bookstore is good for the community. Similarly, if people donate money to keep a library open, and yet the only thing the library does is staff 3 or 4 people to wander around and dust, that's terribly wasteful; libraries aren't of any value if nobody goes in to use the facilities (and in this era, people are into e-books and likely to buy the book they want rather than read it free at the library).

Things should exist because they have purpose. A healthy community with 2 or 3 glaziers is healthy because windows break, and glaziers have to fix them, and there is enough business for 2 or 3 glaziers. If we have kids once in a while break windows, or we design windows specifically to break frequently, such that the community supports 8 or 10 glaziers (or makes those 2 or 3 very rich), then what we have is a destruction of wealth. The community does not need glaziers; rather it needs functional windows, and glaziers fix broken windows. The community doesn't need any particular business; it needs jobs, roads, and generally wealth--and part of wealth is having businesses available locally that people want, which isn't served by teaching people to mindlessly buy into "supporting local businesses" by buying into things they really don't care about as a charity. Business welfare isn't profit, and I find the big chain H-Mart here (Asian food market) much more valuable than a small local grocer that carries the same shit as Giant Foods because it expands the range of available foods I have (not to mention I can get produce cheaper there). If you want to run a local market here, open a market that carries things people want--otherwise fold and get out.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42249966)

Hang on, backtrack a bit.

Changing the function of a bookstore is also an indication of a failing business model.

Wasn't this exactly the scenario that we were discussing? Like "the expensive and crappy bookstore goes out of business. People are actually saving $10 buying from Amazon, so they can reward the local farmers. No damage done to the community if the bookstore goes bankrupt"?
To which I said: maybe there are other possibilities that would worth exploring to keep the local bookstore keeper busy in a beneficial way for the community, even if the bookstore as a business goes under. Maybe, from the saved $10, some part of it would be better if given (not even as an investment or loan) to the former bookstore keeper to help her reorient to other business models?

My point is: you let the local businesses disappear and don't care what happens with the persons that use to work there results in a loss for the community on long term (even if on a short term may be better). At no point was I suggesting to start digging trenches with a teaspoon just to keep people busy. But between the two extremes ("don't care" .. "can waste you money within community"), there have to be some other possible solutions that are meaningful (or, if you like it better, purposeful) for keeping the community members "in a business".

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42251171)

No, it's the other way around. Closing a local business is a loss for the community on a short term. The building is eventually filled with a new business performing a different function. Alternate scenarios include existing businesses changing around (adding/altering services), or being pre-emptively replaced (a similar business with different services becomes more popular, or a new business appears and people are more interested in spending their extra dollars there--indirect competition).

Claiming an effect of permanent job loss is identical to claiming detrimental effects of permanent unemployment increases from an expanding population. While population expansion has significant downsides, that's not one of the acute negative impacts. (Some have even suggested that unemployment is a myth--that people won't take jobs that don't pay enough, so they sit around and complain about being unemployed while we pay some Mexican $10/hr instead of paying an American $22/hr; my issue with that is that some outsourced jobs are below minimum wage, but then if you factor in shipping costs perhaps not...)

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42255301)

No, it's the other way around. Closing a local business is a loss for the community on a short term. The building is eventually filled with a new business performing a different function.

etc...

Well, I feel the community is being affected on long term by job losses, even if business closures may be better on short term. Since there's an "active experiment of this kind" running now in US, I guess we can only wait and see how it will evolve.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42259445)

It's short-term because you lose 5 jobs, then a new business opens and hires people again. It'd be long-term if that closed down Wal-Mart was replaced with a derelict parking lot and a crumbling old Wal-Mart building 80 years in the future.

Retail is always hiring. We have like 70% labor participation here and people are wandering the streets complaining they have no job, but the retail and fast food places are hiring like crazy, complaining they can't find employees. I know chronic poor folks that are in and out of jobs all the time. "Oh the state fair is here, I'm goin' back tomorrow at 8am I'mma work until they kick me out!" "Yeah I have three jobs I'm working at Burger King AND at the 7-11!" etc. I also know unemployed middle classers that are like, "...what do you mean, work at UPS or Panera Bread? I need a JOB, you know, MONEY. Those places don't pay anything." Well cry me a river while Steve Martin plays sad songs on the world's tiniest banjo.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | about a year ago | (#42245877)

In economics people like to discuss job creators and wealth movement, trickle-up and trickle-down, the loss of businesses, poor people and rich people... but they fail to understand wealth. Take the "shop locally" thing... if you have a local bookstore versus Amazon, people tell you to shop locally because it "keeps the money in the community." Problem is the local bookstore is crap, they order from the big publishers and distributors, etc; some folks argue Walmart or B&N are as bad as Amazon and not like a local bookstore, but their stores still pay local taxes on their income, they still pay rent, hire sales people, and order from the same distributors.

Now let's say you order from Amazon because it's $10 cheaper. That money leaves the local community, but $10 stays ... you're $10 wealthier. The local bookstore has terrible selection and is expensive... it goes out of business. Meanwhile you've got a local farmer's market and you shop there with the extra $10 you have. That's wealth creation: you have the same goods (a book) plus more money ($10) to buy other goods (fresh food). If this is the general trend, the Farmer's Market garners that much more business, expands, and replaces the local book shop's place in the community--the community demand for a farmer's market was higher than a local bookstore, the community is now wealthier.

This only works in communities that are big enough to absorb the job losses from the bookstore closing. In big cities, the bookstore closes, the workers all eventually get other jobs, often in new industries. The economy expands. Labor is moved to more efficient uses. Everything works great.

In small towns, when the bookstore closes, there might not be any other new industry to pick up the slack. Not only are those people out of work, but lots of other jobs in small towns become obsolete at the same time. Cars last longer... need fewer mechanics. Local restaurant buys new labor-saving equipment... needs fewer kitchen staff. The list goes on. And the effects compound: fewer mechanics means fewer people eat at the restaurant, which means the restaurant lets a couple more kitchen staff go, which means fewer people in town that own cars, so you need even fewer mechanics, etc.

Again, in the big city, all that unused labor can be absorbed into new industries. With few exceptions, though, people don't start new companies/industries in small towns anymore. So those jobs never get replaced, and such towns just continue to dwindle in size. Note, however, that it is only a temporary solution to "buy local". The long-term solution unfortunately, is for people to move away from small towns. Also, note that this is only really true for small, isolated towns. It is not true for small bedroom communities that may be near metropolitan areas but still maintain a small-town feel. Those latter communities are really just suburbs, not really small towns in the way I've been thinking about it above.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#42246105)

Mechanization and an increase in product lifespan are much larger, very much different effects. Essentially the same but on a whole different scale--closing a bookstore occurs because the bookstore doesn't supply anything the customers want in one specific location from one outlet. Mechanization eliminates employees because they don't supply anything employers want--same thing, really. Mechanization is, however, not restricted to circumstance; if you can mechanize the production and distribution of books, you can do it FOR ALL BOOKS EVER MADE. A local bookstore closes, but another community keeps theirs open because it's a good bookstore and caters to their tastes better and so on; we can't rubber-stamp close all our local bookstores. A local printer fires 80% of its staff after opening up a new factory that's 80% automated and only needs machinists to run, and every other printer in the country does the exact same thing.

They are essentially the same; but the impact is different in the same way that a camp fire is essentially fire yet not a California wild fire.

Finally, I'd like to reiterate that the whole 'shop local' thing by itself is economically wasteful. That doesn't imply that any given example is automatically wrong. Sometimes the local bookstore is better--or the community just likes it for something other than books. If nobody really cares, why should they essentially pay a tax to keep open a historic but basically worthless landmark? The bookstore needs to add some kind of value--a better selection of books is a good start in most cases I've seen.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | about a year ago | (#42247717)

Those things are not really different from an economic perspective. What really matters is that they reflect increases in productivity (some combination of labor productivity and capital productivity). When productivity increases in an industry, a market economy will find other ways to utilize the labor and capital that was saved. The problem I was pointing out was that a market economy may not be able to utilize that labor and capital in the same location. Small towns are much less likely to develop new businesses to utilize those surpluses, compared to more diversified cities -- where new industries and businesses are much more likely to be developed.

So any analysis that tries to determine whether it is better to pay more for a book (and have the profits stay local) or pay less for a book (and have surplus buying power to spend locally), needs to take into consideration the dynamics of the local economy. Large, diversified local economies tend to be able to adjust to those types of efficiency gains. Walmart comes into a big city and puts some small mom-and-pops out of business... it's tough for those business owners, but you'd have a hard time showing that it negatively impacted that city's economy. When that happens in a small town, you can document how quickly local economic dynamics change (often deteriorate) as Walmart pushes out local businesses. There are winners in that situation -- the people who make just as much money but get cheaper goods -- but the losers also become obvious, as they have a harder time getting reintegrated into the economy than they would in a more diversified economic environment.

This is really a well-described phenomenon. The only controversy is that some people think we should do something to stop "Walmartification". Others think that such efficiency gains represent the normal course of business over time, you can't hold back progress.

Re:Fast, Cheap n' Frigid (1)

IAmR007 (2539972) | about a year ago | (#42248677)

Fiber optics can easily contain photon energy of 3 megawats/cm^2 and have a low enough loss to allow for quantum communication, which relies on individual photons being delivered successfully. Yes, photons really are orders of magnitude more reliable in terms of transmission. The hard part about photons is actually the same thing: they're hard to make interact with each other, which is why designing optical quantum gates is hard.

Optical computing? (2)

CanadianRealist (1258974) | about a year ago | (#42243325)

Data transmission using photons rather than electrons is better. IBM has figured out how to do parts of that on silicon.

Processing the data using photons instead of silicon might be better too. How much does what IBM has done help us towards being able to produce photonic logic?

Dinosaur problems, though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42243597)

I hope they don't stall in their development cycle because of re-allocation of resources toward dinosaur capture.

Translation? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about a year ago | (#42244011)

So in practice, what does this mean exactly?

Does it mean we can beat the 3-4Ghz CPU limit?
Or does it mean we can treat DRAM as if it were more like next-to-the-metal L2 cache?
Or does it mean we can have faster internet download speeds or quicker latency?

Re:Translation? (1)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about a year ago | (#42244545)

1. No, probably not.
2. No, probably not, but in theory may get higher bandwidth, but latency should be similar to current DRAM
3. Probably, should make for cheaper fiber optics transmitters.
4. (which you didn't say). You can electrically disconnect components on a board, aka, not on the same ground plane, less issues with electrical noise and signal propagation.

Re:Translation? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#42245145)

I would be delighted if this leads to commodity implementation of optical Thunderbolt. Compared to copper Thunderbolt, which is limited to 3m, optical Thunderbolt can run tens of meters [wikipedia.org]. Instead of maintaining and powering so many computers around the home or office, you could have a centralized "mainframe" with a strand of fiber for each terminal, because you could send uncompressed video signals without the computational load or latency of re-compression.

.

Now, does it mean we can have faster internet download speeds or quicker latency? My answer is, unequivocally, yes. Because the technology for those things already exists. Adoption is a therefore a function of cost. There will be no single moment at which Verizon will say "thanks to Intel's new manufacturing process we're going to roll out Fios nationally!" But this is exactly the kind of progress that has moved computers from central bank offices to your jeans pocket over the last 50 years.

Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42244431)

Before going to university (BSc CS), I studied Electronics Engineering. I worked for a company building industrial control equipment. Routing all the power, address, data, and control bus lines on a circuit board can be a real bitch. Even a small CPU has dozens of lines. New CPU's use ball grid arrays because there isn't enough room around the edge of the chip for all the pins. Even back then (at least 20 years ago) they used optocouplers to isolate electronic circuits. It would be very nice to have two optical emitters per side on the chip pushing data at 500 gigabits per second. A serial connection like this would solve as many problems as going from ribbon cable connectors on hard drives to SATA, in both speed and ease of design.

Faster? (2)

iiii (541004) | about a year ago | (#42244775)

...thousands of times faster than current state-of-the-art copper and optical networks...

Nope. Electrons and photons still moving at the speed of light, which is relatively constant. (c what I did there?!?)

Ok, mostly I'm just being a smart ass. This may improve throughput and/or latency. But our chips are running into constraints due to the fact that the electrons can only go so far in on clock cycle. The stuff is cool, but it's not going to fix those problems.

Re:Faster? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42245139)

Electrons don't move at the speed of light. The electric field generated by moving electrons propagates at the speed of light. In other words, when an electron starts moving at one end of a wire, the electric field propagates down the wire at the speed of light and starts the electrons at the other end moving.

Full Circle (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#42246259)

So we've gone from using flashlights and reflectors for signalling with light to a wire capable of 1+ T/s also using light. Love it.

Light wins over electricity. (1)

epSos-de (2741969) | about a year ago | (#42246941)

First there were horses, then steam, then gas, now electricity and soon light. It seems that all technology will be powered by electricity and eventually by light some day, becasue it is the fastest and cheapest to do. Look at the price of horses, gasoline, metal and copper for arguments.

Good old IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42249628)

They are big, boring and expensive by my goodness do they ever know how to innovate.

Apple/USPTO take note. *This* is innovation. You can stick your "rounded corners" and "gestures" up your crinkly arseholes.
 

Opel Technologies Inc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42267173)

Check out what this company is doing. GaAs based instead of silicon but it adresses the RAM issues and others. Supposed to be fully validated in 2013

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