Intel/UC Research Could Lead to Super Fast PCs

Carl Weinschenk

The developments reported in this Mercury News story won't have much impact for about six or seven years. But once it kicks in, well, just hold on.


As every junior high school kid knows, nothing moves faster than light. Today, light is the standard way to send data-carrying signals long distances. However, it's only feasible to move signals around the cramped quarters of a PC or other computing device after they are changed into electricity.


The Intel/University of California-Santa Barbara research is a big step closer to creating chips that use tiny lasers to send these internal signals scurrying to their destinations as light impulses.


OK, "scurrying" may not be quite the right word for something moving at 700 million miles per hour, but we think the point is clear: Computing gear is going to get faster. Perhaps 1,000 times faster. It will make possible convergence activities that can only be guessed at today.


In addition, the new technology will fit hand-in-glove with the sophisticated fiber infrastructure that is rolling out on an ever-faster basis.


This is going to happen. Bet on it. Technical breakthroughs often sound mind-boggling the first time they are reported. It's no wonder: By the time a mainstream newspaper or magazine covers one of these advances, it's relatively well developed. Vendors and prestigious research facilities -- worried about their stock price and academic reputation -- don't talk about these things until they are reasonably sure that they will succeed.


Who would have thought, as recently as 25 years ago, that somebody sitting at a desktop device could in a few seconds get thousands of references from around the world to the beautiful Hedy Lamarr, a 1930s actress who in her spare time helped invent spread spectrum technology, a precursor to Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and radio frequency identification (RFID)?


Not many people, we suspect.


Fact is stranger and more exciting than fiction. It pays to understand that time and science continually march on, and that things that appear unbeatable today often seem quaint a few decades later.

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