Friday, February 5, 2010

Germanium Laser, Optical Computing and the Human Condition

"Germanium Laser Breakthrough Brings Optical Computing Closer"
Gadget Lab, Wired (February 4, 2010)

"Researchers at MIT have demonstrated the first laser that uses the element germanium.

"The laser, which operates at room temperature, could prove to be an important step toward computer chips that move data using light instead of electricity, say the researchers.

" 'This is a very important breakthrough, one I would say that has the highest possible significance in the field,' says Eli Yablonovitch, a professor in the electrical engineering and computer science department of the University of California, Berkeley who was not involved in the research told 'It will greatly reduce the cost of communications and make for faster chips.'..."

The Wired article explains why these new lasers are such a good idea (they can be made inside the chip at the same time as the other components), why photons are better than electrons for moving data around - sometimes, and why the inside of your computer gets hot.

I think it's a pretty good overview of another development in computer technology.

On a related topic, here's my guess at what will happen when (if?) chips with teeny, tiny lasers inside go into production. Someone, somewhere, will hear "laser," remember that scene from "Goldfinger" (1964), and decide that the new chips are dangerous. The rest of us will upgrade as soon as our budgets permit.

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