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How Vacuum Tubes, New Technology Might Save Moore's Law

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 months ago | from the tube-computers-sound-better-too dept.

Hardware 183

MojoKid (1002251) writes The transistor is one of the most profound innovations in all of human existence. First discovered in 1947, it has scaled like no advance in human history; we can pack billions of transistors into complicated processors smaller than your thumbnail. After decades of innovation, however, the transistor has faltered. Clock speeds stalled in 2005 and the 20nm process node is set to be more expensive than the 28nm node was for the first time ever. Now, researchers at NASA believe they may have discovered a way to kickstart transistors again — by using technology from the earliest days of computing: The vacuum tube. It turns out that when you shrink a Vacuum transistor to absolutely tiny dimensions, you can recover some of the benefits of a vacuum tube and dodge the negatives that characterized their usage. According to a report, vacuum transistors can draw electrons across the gate without needing a physical connection between them. Make the vacuum area small enough, and reduce the voltage sufficiently, and the field emission effect allows the transistor to fire electrons across the gap without containing enough energy to energize the helium inside the nominal "vacuum" transistor. According to researchers, they've managed to build a successful transistor operating at 460GHz — well into the so-called Terahertz Gap, which sits between microwaves and infrared energy.

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Planck trumps Moore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304051)

Unless you want to redesign the Universe.

Re:Planck trumps Moore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304069)

Fractal universe trumps Planck.

Re:Planck trumps Moore (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 months ago | (#47304453)

Fractal universe trumps Planck.

Heisenberg trumps fractal universe

Re:Planck trumps Moore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304503)

Unless you want to redesign the universe... :)

Re: Planck trumps Moore (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304511)

.45 trumps 5 aces.

Re:Planck trumps Moore (5, Funny)

CeasedCaring (1527717) | about 3 months ago | (#47304663)

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. I'm uncertain...

Re:Planck trumps Moore (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304703)

Gus Fring trumps Heisenberg.

Re:Planck trumps Moore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304963)

Zen trumps everything: be the Universe.

Re:Planck trumps Moore (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 months ago | (#47305585)

Hector Salamanca trumps Gus Fring

Re:Planck trumps Moore (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305493)

Faceplancking?

Re:Planck trumps Moore (3, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47305261)

Just ask Madoka [wikipedia.org] .

More expensive for whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304061)

Intel is set to ship 14nm before end of year. Certainly not at a loss :-)

Re:More expensive for whom? (-1, Flamebait)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47304571)

There is reason to believe that Intel has done CPUs for quite a time at a loss in order to ruin AMD. The effects of AMD being reduced are also blatantly obvious with massively retarded innovations.

Re:More expensive for whom? (4, Insightful)

thue (121682) | about 3 months ago | (#47304691)

Intel has an insanely high Gross Profit Margin of 75%. That is the opposite of selling at a loss.

http://www.thestreet.com/story... [thestreet.com]

Re:More expensive for whom? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47304901)

I'm not an economist, but there seems to be an easy explanation for that: If the CPU cost is only a fraction of the total system cost, not even progressive pricing of the CPUs decreases the complete system's price/performance ratio to an appreciable extent. That would mean that Intel can manufacture CPUs that are somewhat (though not vastly) faster than AMD CPUs at a considerably higher price and with large profit margins while still outselling AMD even in areas where AMD has better prices for individual components.

Re:More expensive for whom? (2)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 3 months ago | (#47305213)

Gross profit [wikipedia.org] is not the same as net profit [wikipedia.org] , and has little relation to selling at a loss. From the same article:

the net profit margin of 15.12% trails the industry average.

Re:More expensive for whom? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47305505)

People are dumb. Little details like these are wayyy beyond them. Or that Intel actually makes their profits somewhere else.

Re:More expensive for whom? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47305497)

And Intel sells a lot more than CPUs and they do not tell anybody how they make their profits. Your argument is uninformed and worthless.

Re:More expensive for whom? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47305543)

A) That is for the company as a whole.
B) That is not net profit.

Nothing you said actually contradicts my statement.

Re:More expensive for whom? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 3 months ago | (#47305551)

It's a good thing they don't have to spend almost all of that on R&D and facilities to manufacture newer tech in order to remain relevant.

Re:More expensive for whom? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304825)

Who was dumb enough to mod parent post up?

Re:More expensive for whom? (0)

epine (68316) | about 3 months ago | (#47305033)

There is reason to believe that Intel has done CPUs for quite a time at a loss in order to ruin AMD. The effects of AMD being reduced are also blatantly obvious with massively retarded innovations.

That's the danger in posting so soon after being woken up from a long sleep by a handsome prince. You need to shake your head and check out the competitive landscape in 2014.

4 Cores @ 2.5GHz Qualcomm Krait 400

Intel might wish to rethink sitting on their innovative thumbs.

Re:More expensive for whom? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47305511)

I certainly do hope so. They have been screwing their customers over long enough.

Re:More expensive for whom? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 months ago | (#47305321)

Man, I wish I could sell at a loss with a 60% gross margin. Like all companies they make margins slim where competition is strong and large where it's weak or non-existant, but if you've ever had the impression Intel was dumping prices to squish AMD out of the market you must have lived in a different world than me. Dirty OEM tricks? Sure. Bleeding consumers dry by charging tons for extreme performance, long battery life or server features? Sure. Having superior process technology and pocketing the profit from lower costs? Sure. Force feeding the mainstream market IGPs to eat AMD/nVidia's low end? Sure. But I've never looked at an Intel CPU - and particularly a CPU+mobo combo since they have a monopoly on chipsets too and effectively set prices for both - and thought "wow, that's cheap"

Re:More expensive for whom? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47305525)

And you pulled this numbers for CPUs (!) from where? Right out of your ass? Because Intel does not publish these numbers and their net profit overall is far lower.

Human anus (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304081)

Human anus [wikipedia.org]

Why is helium the new answer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304095)

First HDDs now CPUs?

Re:Why is helium the new answer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304117)

The helium mafia is eager to sell.

Re:Why is helium the new answer? (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 months ago | (#47304533)

They really are. The US government has been selling off reserves for below-production-cost for some time, causing prices to be artificially low.

Re:Why is helium the new answer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304695)

didn't we reach peak helium some time ago?

Re:Why is helium the new answer? (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 months ago | (#47304777)

Astrophysicists say no.

Re:Why is helium the new answer? (3, Funny)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#47305695)

All we need to do is figure out how to mine the Sun and we'll have all the helium we could ever want.

Re:Why is helium the new answer? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#47305765)

Presumably because Helium has some really interesting properties, many related to the fact that it's both a noble gas and has only a single electron shell. Which thanks to it's elongated shape and proximity to the nucleus allows for atomic behaviors and arrangements that are essentially impossible from any other element.

Transistor patented in 1933 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304105)

http://worldwide.espacenet.com... [espacenet.com]
As usual this topic gets its history wrong, the first transistor was in the 1920s

Re:Transistor patented in 1933 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304161)

Those that fail to read their history are doomed to look like idiots on /.

Sure there were some patents back in the 1920's and 30's but the first observation of the effect was in 1947.

Wikipedia will put you straight...

Re:Transistor patented in 1933 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304343)

Is Slashdot becoming the New BBC?

  - Where they never let the facts get in the way of a sensational headline.
  - Where information is sanitised [TM] to the point where "You've got aggressive throat cancer that's eating you alive in front of me" sounds like "I'd like to bottle your shit because it smells like rainbows and rosehips".
  - Where stories of import and relevance to the technical or nerdist community are generally cast aside, if not by the so-called editors then by the pure spite of large groups of people whose sole purpose seems to be to poison communities with misinformation and spam, in favour of nonstories such as some three year old quadriplegic kid reinventing the wheel or the repeated discovery that lithium batteries actually do contain lithium and that they don't generally react too well to exposure to water.

Re:Transistor patented in 1933 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305121)

If people did not reflexively Godwin German corporations (after having dropped in an Aspirin), this kind of Scheisse might not be necessary.

Not a computing element (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 3 months ago | (#47304135)

As a 450GHz computing element, this is a long way off. But it might lead to better terahertz radar. Right now, operating in the terahertz range is painfully difficult. It's a strange region where both electronics and optics work, but not easily. This may be a more effective way to work in that range.

Re:Not a computing element (5, Informative)

wanax (46819) | about 3 months ago | (#47304467)

That's mentioned in the IEEE Spectrum article (which by the way is about the most clearly written article on an early prototype technology that I've ever read).
The problems are:
-Too high voltage; can be mitigated by better geometry (probably).
-Insufficient simulations at present for improving the geometry, with the caveat that getting better performance (voltage-wise) might compromise durability.
-Because of the above, they don't have a good set of design rules to produce an integrated circuit. They're hopeful about this step, since the technique uses well established CMOS technology and there are many tools available.

Their next targets are things like gyroscopes and accelerometers. I'd say on the whole this strikes me as realistic and non-sensational. But if anybody knows better, I'd like to hear why.

Re:Not a computing element (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304617)

Their next targets are things like gyroscopes and accelerometers. I'd say on the whole this strikes me as realistic and non-sensational. But if anybody knows better, I'd like to hear why.

That's not how I read that last part. To me it seemed that the problem was that they need to find appropriate housing for the chip which allows the circuit to be inside a helium environment which means that they will need to have some form of hollow casing filled with helium surrounding the chip. Accelerometers and gyroscopes built on chip scale already have such a housing so the hollow housing should probably not be so much of a problem.

Re:Not a computing element (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#47305801)

It sounds like you're contradicting yourself - if accelerometers and gyroscopes already have a suitable housing, then the housing problem is largely solved - you could just as easily place a normal IC in the same housing. Though it would no doubt make heat dissipation a bit more of a challenge.

Pity Whitney Houston isn't still around (3, Funny)

Viol8 (599362) | about 3 months ago | (#47304471)

Stick her in front of a mike then tell her no more drugs and press record. That would have got you pretty close to that frequency range.

Re:Pity Whitney Houston isn't still around (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304843)

Mike Who?

Whitney Houston's crack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304897)

Stick her in front of a mike then tell her no more drugs and press record. That would have got you pretty close to that frequency range.

From what I understand, drugs or not, her voice was already well past its peak (at best) if not totally f****d by the time she died anyway. Some of that was possibly due to age, most of it was probably smoking crack all day for years on end.
 
Given that technical excellence was her thing- because it sure as hell wasn't the ability to impart anything approaching soul or emotion into her singing- that's quite a big flaw.

Besides which, I thought it was Mariah Carey that had the ability to hit the most ludicrously high notes.

Re:Whitney Houston's crack (2)

omnichad (1198475) | about 3 months ago | (#47305597)

Yep - Mariah Carey hits the highest notes:
http://www.concerthotels.com/w... [concerthotels.com]

Whitney Houston is WAY down the list at #23, below even Elton John and Miley Cyrus.

Re:Whitney Houston's crack (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 months ago | (#47305705)

From what I understand, drugs or not, her voice was already well past its peak (at best) if not totally f****d by the time she died anyway. Some of that was possibly due to age, most of it was probably smoking crack all day for years on end.

Speaking of drugs...

Re:Not a computing element (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47304581)

I am willing to predict that it will not happen as computing element. Computing elements have been limited by interconnect, clock distribution and the like for quite a while now. You cannot do longer traces in the GHz range, unless you spend an inordinate amount of chip-are for it. For analog, things are different, as you have few elements and there this tech may be interesting. But for digital, it is wholly irrelevant.

Re:Not a computing element (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305175)

that is a wave length of 650 micron so shielding to prevent RF from blowing all your signal away ...

Re:Not a computing element (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305303)

It's a strange region where both electronics and optics work, but not easily.

Optics work quite fine, and even down in frequency by several orders of magnitude depending on how big your setup is. The lower limit for optics mostly comes down to how big you want your optics to be. If anything, optics get easier at the low wavelengths, as you can just through a chunk of TPX in a cheap CNC milling machine and not worry about precision as the wavelength is bigger than deviations from the desired shape, unlike visible light optics that need to be polished to a scale smaller than a typical machine shop handles. Without the electronics though making sources unreliable and detectors that are inefficient, it becomes a mess regardless of the ability to use optics.

Re:Not a computing element (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#47305865)

I think you may be confusing terms: low *frequency* optics behave as you describe, since low frequency = large wavelength. Low (short) wavelength on the other hand is the opposite, the optics need to be even more precise because the wavelength is even smaller than visible light.

The problem is not switch speed (2)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about 3 months ago | (#47304139)

but that with increasing clock speed the size of your chip is limited (as electricity can only travel that far in a given amount of time) -> can't keep your chip synchronized -> need to think of new ways how to sync everything / if there are alternatives.

Re:The problem is not switch speed (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 3 months ago | (#47304305)

Isn't this only a problem for branching? If you have a linear set of instructions to queue isn't it possible to start processing the next instruction while the previous is still propagating across the chip assuming the chip is laid out such that this kind of processing works and one instruction won't complete slower than the one following it. Sure it would have some downsides, branching would be expensive and out-of-order execution may be difficult but couldn't it in theory work?

Re:The problem is not switch speed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304383)

The energy for the operation has to come from somewhere. Even if the operation propagates through the chip you still need to draw current to perform it.
Speed of light / 460 GHz is only about 0.65mm so keeping the capacitors outside the chip won't do.

Re:The problem is not switch speed (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 3 months ago | (#47305693)

It's not just branching. You also run into difficulties when a following instruction needs to use the results of the precending one.

Re:The problem is not switch speed (4, Interesting)

Chatterton (228704) | about 3 months ago | (#47304307)

Asynchronous designs are faster (~3x) and consume less energy (~2x) but need an overhaul of the production process who is deemed too costly. Perhaps this technology could make it interesting again. (Source [columbia.edu] )

Re:The problem is not switch speed (5, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 months ago | (#47304377)

Not the production process so much as the design process. It'd mean starting over from scratch with a whole new architecture, redoing decades of work in hardware and software.

Re:The problem is not switch speed (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 3 months ago | (#47304709)

It'd mean starting over from scratch with a whole new architecture, redoing decades of work in hardware and software.

So? I would say that is bound to happen eventually anyhow. Traditional integrated circuits are quickly on their way to becoming a stick in the mud. Something fundamentally different will have to replace them eventually.

Re:The problem is not switch speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305987)

We are seeing different ways to get around it. HP has their tech. Intel is slapping FPGA cores on their Xeons which, depending on task, can definitely be of use. For Web servers, the FPGA core can handle RSA's exponentation. For DB servers, it can handle the array shifting of AES. Even for a desktop, the FPGA can come in handy for gaming (you want a ferocious AI... you got it.)

It could even be used for having security sensitive items run on its own CPU "architecture", although trying to mimic a Harvard architecture on an average amd64 box would take some doing.

Time to brush up on VHDL or Verilog.

Re:The problem is not switch speed (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 months ago | (#47305785)

HP is already doing that with their memristor tech.

Re:The problem is not switch speed (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47304313)

but that with increasing clock speed the size of your chip is limited (as electricity can only travel that far in a given amount of time) -> can't keep your chip synchronized -> need to think of new ways how to sync everything / if there are alternatives.

I don't see why anything new is required. With today's design, bits are shifted from one section to the next on each clock pulse (or some multiple of the clock pulse, which just means that the internal clock is faster than the external clock).

Sure, the timing might have to be adjusted here and there. But you're still just shifting electrons short distances from one pulse to the next. If your chip die is 1" across, electrons can travel the whole width at about 10GHz. Since they seldom go a tiny fraction of that distance in a single clock cycle, I don't see a lot of problem.

I do agree... there would have to be some adjustments made. But I don't think they're quite as harsh as you make them out to be.

Re:The problem is not switch speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304401)

but that with increasing clock speed the size of your chip is limited (as electricity can only travel that far in a given amount of time) -> can't keep your chip synchronized -> need to think of new ways how to sync everything / if there are alternatives.

I think you forgot about the fact that while individual electrons travel at c. 1m/s, electric field waves propagate at (almost) the speed of light - 300 million times faster.

Also, consider that your clock speed is a function of the total propagation delay of the entire circuit. If your designed clock speed is higher than your propagation delay allows (ie your propagation delay is MORE than a single clock period), you'll encounter race conditions where multiple signals collide and output is changed before the last stable output is confirmed. This is why processor manufacturers are packing cores rather than trying to decrease propagation delays even though theoretically (and in a perfect world) processor core clock speeds should now be exceeding 12GHz. Eight cores at 2GHz (less overheads) gives equivalent performance to a single 12GHz core for *software that is capable of taking advantage of multicore systems* (otherwise it's just a really expensive single 2GHz core)

Re:The problem is not switch speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304837)

You're right. The problem is not switch speed. The problem is getting lazy-ass, incompetent developers to learn to thread properly.

That would be handy for radio astronomy too (5, Interesting)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 3 months ago | (#47304143)

I work in a lab where we make radio receivers that work at frequencies around 460 GHz. As it is, we have to use a mixer diode to convert to a lower frequency (10 GHz) before amplifying the signal. This technology would be well suited to this application, provided that the noise is low enough. We already cool the mixer to 4K in a vacuum chamber.

Re:That would be handy for radio astronomy too (1)

MattskEE (925706) | about 3 months ago | (#47304369)

Vacuum micro/nano-electronics are interesting for RF/mm-wave applications as the transport can be ballistic which could theoretically enable ultra-high-frequencies with scaling of the size.

I haven't yet found a paper for the 460GHz claim in the IEEE Spectrum article so I'm not sure exactly which figure of merit they have picked for that claim, but rest assured that their comparisons to other transistor technologies are highly flawed.

InP devices for example already operate up to 1THz power gain cutoff frequencies and have for some years. Simple circuits including amplifiers have been demonstrated in the 600GHz range with both InP HBTs and HEMTs. Even silicon certainly operates in the multi-hundred-GHz range, not the 40GHz which is for some reason cited in the article. Using graphene as a point of comparison is somewhat laughable as graphene has yet to demonstrate any truly practical advantage over group-IV or III-V transistor technologies, and has never been close to beating other leading device technologies on clock speed despite heavy press coverage.

Re:That would be handy for radio astronomy too (4, Interesting)

MattskEE (925706) | about 3 months ago | (#47304395)

I just noticed another disingenuous aspect to their claim - they say that because this operates at "atmospheric" pressure it will be more reliable than vacuum tubes of yore.

But these vacuum FETs are filled with 1 atmosphere of helium, so the partial pressure difference with the outside world for all other gases will still be the same as though it was operating with a full vacuum, and this device would require the same long-term hermetic packaging as a vacuum tube. It relies on helium to extend the mean free path of the electrons, though to be fair as dimensions are scaled down further from the current 100nm to say 20nm perhaps neither helium nor vacuum would be required. Still it seems to be a very misleading claim.

Re:That would be handy for radio astronomy too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305259)

The article mentions that they need to reduce it further to get rid of the helium, for it to be pratical.

Re:That would be handy for radio astronomy too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305343)

1 atmosphere of helium needs to be sealed from air, but mechanically is simpler because of the lower pressure difference. And if it is not sensitive to impurities, but just depends on the bulk component of the gas, then they would be a lot easier to make without some of the cleaning processes needed for things that require a really good vacuum. Depending on the scale of what they want to seal though, if it is small enough there wouldn't be much mechanical difference between 1 atmosphere and 0 though.

Re:That would be handy for radio astronomy too (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 months ago | (#47304599)

Even silicon certainly operates in the multi-hundred-GHz range, not the 40GHz which is for some reason cited in the article. Using graphene as a point of comparison is somewhat laughable as graphene has yet to demonstrate any truly practical advantage over group-IV or III-V transistor technologies, and has never been close to beating other leading device technologies on clock speed despite heavy press coverage.

Yeah the graphene comparison is spurious, except that it's a wider audience article and graphene has been getting inexplicably large amounts of press recently.

As for the other comparisons: what's the maximum speed of a MOSFET? You can get silicon BJTs into the hundreds of GHz, but I'm not sure about MOSFETS. Bear in mind that one advantage of the proposed tech is that it in principle works on pretty much existing planar CMOS processes with little or no modification. That's handy since there's likely to be a lot of those around at the point when the next technological development for bulk electronics takes over.

And as for advantages over Group III-V transistors: it works with silicon which is less faffy to work with than GaAs for example.

The full article doesn't actually make a bunch of wild-ass claims and is pretty good. They're not making lots of OMG YOAR NEXT COMPUTAR SI TEH VALVES!!11 claims.

I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304237)

Thanks for article.I read like this in Haber [trtturk.com]

Is this one of those (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304257)

Is this one of those revolutionary new technologies that we hear of once every week that is supposed to change everything ever but never hear from it again? Because I'm really sick of getting my hopes up.

Looking forward to Batman v. Superman : Dawn of Justice though

Re:Is this one of those (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47304589)

Actually, this one has been cropping up every few years for a long time. It has never delivered anything so far and there is no reason to think that it will do so this time.

It is time to get real: What we have in computing power in a "normal" chip these days is pretty much what we are going to get for the foreseeable future. That is not a problem. Software these days is so bloated and slow that there is a lot of optimization potential. And even afterwards, what do you want? Most things will work fine with current computing power levels. Cars, trains and airplanes have stopped getting faster at some time, if the same happens to CPUs, so what?

Re:Is this one of those (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304853)

Computer Whores will finally become software engineers. Instead of chasing the latest pseudo-orgasm (Python, NodeJS, Ruby and the like) in an infinite loop.

Re:Is this one of those (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305463)

Oh, great. Boot time will now include warm-up time for the tubes.

At this scale everything is a vaccuum (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304275)

Interestingly enough, these micro/nano vaccuum tubes do not actually need to be enclosed inside a vaccuum.
The 'vacuum tube' is tiny in comparison to the distance between air molecules in open air.

Computers are boring now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304317)

The fad is ending.

Re:Computers are boring now (1)

Enter the Shoggoth (1362079) | about 3 months ago | (#47304433)

The fad is ending.

Intended as a troll I think... but it's sadly true

Computers always were boring (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 3 months ago | (#47304449)

Its what you can do with them thats interesting and thats only going to get more fascinating as the years go by.

A computer without a program is just a plastic brick.

Magic Smoke (4, Funny)

niftydude (1745144) | about 3 months ago | (#47304331)

So in the future, you'll know your electronics are broken when magic smoke is sucked into the chip?

Re:Magic Smoke (2)

Meneth (872868) | about 3 months ago | (#47304535)

TFA says these transistors would be filled with helium gas, and if it gets replaced with other gases, the thing would quickly stop working due to ionization.

So I guess there'd be magic smoke going both in and out of the chip.

transistors held back by manufactures.. (1, Interesting)

strstr (539330) | about 3 months ago | (#47304381)

If you calculate Moore's law from 2000 to 2014 you find it to have been held back and not honored. Manufactures basically capped consumer level processors at 1 billion and quad cores and refused to push it hardly any further except in military technology. In 2000 the Athlon Thunderbird had 34 million transistors and after applying Moore's law in 2014 our desktop rigs should have at least 30 billion. Instead they have 1 billion.

Also the first 1 billion transistor CPU was an Intel Itanium.. Built in 2006 on 90nm year 2002 fab technology showing you what could have been done in 2002 but took till 2006 due to laziness and bad product designs being used for the consumer level market.

I think the military plays a role in all this because theoretically they would be designing transistor based applications without these limitations perhaps including single CPUs 512 times faster than the consumer level counterparts. Making me think the old adage about the military being up to 30 years ahead of the civilian technology is true. It is certainly true when their quantum level remote brain reading / manipulation technology gets looked at; nothing compares or even does a part of it in the consumer market but it does exist. Why would the military hold the technology back or deliberately cripple the consumer level stuff? Engineering profits is one factor of the manufactures but another issue is to keep weapons out of the civilian populations hands, and also to give the exclusive upper hand to the military. Previously DOD would claim even the PS2 was a weapon and this is the logic I apply to all computer technology as either weapons can be designed faster or new electronic weapons automated and engineered using the held back technologies .. Many technologies are legit being held back and have been held back for decades as a result of these policies.

More details at http://www.obamasweapon.com/ [obamasweapon.com]

transistors held back by manufactures.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304463)

I do think you should take about three weeks completely off the internets. Your brain is emitting nonsense.

transistors held back by manufactures.. (1)

kick6 (1081615) | about 3 months ago | (#47304821)

what in the actual fuck did I just read?

Re:transistors held back by manufactures.. (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 3 months ago | (#47305185)

No funny mod for the clown above?

Re:transistors held back by manufactures.. (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 3 months ago | (#47305315)

Better hope this post doesn't show up at your mental competence hearing

Cheesy grin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304439)

This past week had seen some very interesting topics bounce up (fermi down?) to the top. Makes me proud to be a part of the 'forefront' of technology of our time, humanites.

/stoner

Valvistor? (2)

tuoppi (415801) | about 3 months ago | (#47304527)

Should this type of component be known as an "valvistor"?

Ahead of schedule. (5, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 months ago | (#47304545)

"It was a nice feeling to have a Microvac of your own and Jerrodd was glad he was part of his generation and no other. In his father's youth, the only computers had been tremendous machines taking up a hundred square miles of land. There was only one to a planet. Planetary ACs they were called. They had been growing in size steadily for a thousand years and then, all at once, came refinement. In place of transistors had come molecular valves so that even the largest Planetary AC could be put into a space only half the volume of a spaceship."

- Issac Asimov, The Last Question, 1956.

They will not (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 months ago | (#47304561)

Today, Moore's law is an interconnect problem. The switching elements are pretty unimportant for it.

Ideal technology for high radiation/space (3, Interesting)

earthforce_1 (454968) | about 3 months ago | (#47304627)

This looks like the ideal technology for electronics that have to work in extremes of temperatures or high radiation environments. I'm surprised the military and aerospace industries aren't jumping all over this.

Re:Ideal technology for high radiation/space (1)

InvalidError (771317) | about 3 months ago | (#47304775)

Gases ionize when hit with atomic decay particles/radiations. A transistor with a high probability of spontaneously turning on in radioactive environments sounds dangerous to me.

Re:Ideal technology for high radiation/space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305611)

NASA is part of the DoD complex, but products that they want civilians to have access to as well get developed there also.

Discovered? (3, Informative)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 3 months ago | (#47304697)

Natural things and phenomena are "discovered". Transistors were invented after a lot of hard work. By engineers.

Re:Discovered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305513)

Natural things and phenomena are "discovered". Transistors were invented after a lot of hard work. By engineers.

In 1947? No, transistors were discovered while reverse engineering and examining materials from crashed alien spacecraft. Everyone who's anyone knows that.

Re:Discovered? (2)

tgeek (941867) | about 3 months ago | (#47306073)

Yep! Leave it to our government to totally bypass the faster-than-light propulsions systems, advanced life support and other amazing alien technology and go straight for the techs to make cheap, pocket-sized AM radios! (probably subbed the research out to GE)

Why are we saving a law? (4, Insightful)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 3 months ago | (#47304799)

A law needs to stand on it's own with out the need for external help, if Moores law break then it's not a law.

Transistors were not "discovered" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47304823)

Discovery implies revealing something that always existed that we simply did not have awareness of.

Indeed, I can say with certainty that transistors did not exist prior to their INVENTION (not discovery).

I'm not holding my breath. (1)

jonr (1130) | about 3 months ago | (#47305129)

I'm still waiting for my memristor computer...

The first transistor (1)

cnaumann (466328) | about 3 months ago | (#47305273)

Julius Edgar Lilienfeld patented a FET in 1925. The FET is the type of transistor used in all modern CPUs.

More importantly... (1)

Troy Baer (1395) | about 3 months ago | (#47305447)

...when will this result in a 100W Marshall head on a chip?

(Why yes, I am a guitar player! Thanks for asking.)

Where is the Vacuum Tester (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47305681)

Where can I find a vacuum transistor tester. They took all of the tube testers out of the front of my local Radio Shack years ago, will they be replaced?

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