IBM announces world’s most powerful computer chips

“IBM said on Thursday that it had made working versions of ultradense computer chips, with roughly four times the capacity of today’s most powerful chips,” John Markoff reports for The New York Times.

“The announcement, made on behalf of an international consortium led by IBM, the giant computer company, is part of an effort to manufacture the most advanced computer chips in New York’s Hudson Valley, where IBM is investing $3 billion in a private-public partnership with New York State, GlobalFoundries, Samsung and equipment vendors,” Markoff reports. “Intel, which for decades has been the industry leader, has faced technical challenges in recent years. Moreover, technologists have begun to question whether the longstanding pace of chip improvement, known as Moore’s Law, would continue past the current 14-nanometer generation of chips.”

“Today the industry is making the commercial transition from what the industry generally describes as 14-nanometer manufacturing to 10-nanometer manufacturing,” Markoff reports. “Each generation brings roughly a 50 percent reduction in the area required by a given amount of circuitry. IBM’s new chips, though still in a research phase, suggest that semiconductor technology will continue to shrink at least through 2018.”

“The company said on Thursday that it had working samples of chips with seven-nanometer transistors… A strand of DNA is about 2.5 nanometers in diameter… The new material makes possible faster transistor switching and lower power requirements,” Markoff reports. “IBM also declined to speculate on when it might begin commercial manufacturing of this technology generation. This year, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company said that it planned to begin pilot product of seven-nanometer chips in 2017. Unlike IBM, however, it has not demonstrated working chips to meet that goal.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Hello, Singularity.


    1. Let’s see … 7 nm process, but i7 is already taken. Consortium funding, but g7 is already taken. M7, already taken. Apple Specific Integrated Circuit (AISC)? iUtradense – iUd?

    2. PowerPC was absolutely brilliant. The transition from 68K to PPC was so stunningly seamless it was hard to believe that this was anything more than a features upgrade. The performance of the PPC was just as amazing – way more instructions per cycle than the Pentium.
      Apple bailed on PPC because of inadequate PPC production. Unveiling the continuously developed Intel version of OSX was a viable solution (plus it eliminated the PC emulation issues) but pulling back from RISC to the Intel chip set also represented a step back technologically.
      That’s all far behind us now.
      Coming from the first generation of PC users, what I find interesting is how much can be done with so little space. Check out the motherboard with the recent MacBook. It is miniscule. What can be done with a smartphone design is even more impressive. (I remember when having an AM radio the size of a paperback and sporting a two-foot antenna was the height of teen coolness.)

  1. Off topic, but don’t see anywhere else to post this. The MDN poll on this page is flawed by design:

    Regarding Tim Cook’s personal political views:
    * Cook should speak out, but in his name only
    * Cook should use Apple to promote his political views
    * Cook should keep his political views to himself

    None of these questions can be sanely answered “yes” because “political views” is so broad as to be meaningless. Clearly Tim must express political views RELEVANT to Apple, its employees and its customers.

    Also, as a good leader with good will towards employees and customers, it is expected that he will have a personal interest in many relevant political views that he expresses.


    * Stand up for its customers rights of privacy
    * Stand up for rights/employment issues of Apple employees
    * Stand up for fair trade agreements that impact Apple
    * Stand up for immigration policies that impact Apple
    * Etc.

    People can reasonably disagree as to what stances he takes, but saying a CEO should not express personal views isn’t the question. Each political stance has to be judged on its own merits.

    1. I agree. It would be a better poll if it offered more nuanced options, about whether Apple’s CEO should express political views relevant to to Apple’s business, customers, and/or employees.

      The poll should at least have an ‘Other’ option, like many polls do, to count how many find all the suggested options too off mark to identify with any of them.

    2. You’re missing the point of the poll. It’s about hating on Tim Cook for being openly gay. If Cook only echoed Rush’s views MDN wouldn’t question this at all.

  2. It’s exciting to see just how far Moore’s Law can be pushed.

    Will Moore’s Law end, as chips approach being too microscopic for the normal laws physics in electronics to work? Or will geeks innovate some crazy way to keep this party going into the quantum scale? Time will tell.

    1. Processes and materials will and have changed to get to smaller and smaller feature sizes.

      Just to get to this step IBM had to abandon normal ultraviolet (UV) processes and move to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) processes. They also had to abandon pure silicon and move to a silicon-germanium “alloy”. These, combined with other changes they had to make, have significantly changed the way that generation of chips will have to be made.

      Moore’s law (the common interpretation, not the real statement) will likely progress for several more generations. It’s just that chips based upon 1 nm features won’t be silicon based at all. They could easily be something like pure optical or Josephson junction based systems (but we’ll have to get room temperature or near room temperature superconducting systems before the latter will be commercially viable).

  3. Back on topic.

    MDN, the title of this article is not just misleading, it is absolutely wrong.

    IBM has demonstrated, in the lab, functional chips with a pre defined set of circuits that are fabricated with feature sizes smaller than any other to date. That is all.

    The chips are NOT more capable than any others built so far. (NOT more powerful in that sense — in reality not even in the same league as even low end CPUs of today).

    The chips do not support more electrical power than any others built so far (not more powerful in that sense either — they’re not even close to the same class of power draw or TDP as Intel’s or IBM’s most power hungry chips).

    The chips are not fully functional anything in the context of what most consumers think of when they think of “electronic chips”. They are NOT CPUs, GPUs, APUs, SOCs or anything similar.

    IBM has demonstrated a feature size that when implemented in certain fashions can lead to chip circuit densities greater than any shipping chips of today. It is a truly major accomplishment, but it’s not anything like what your title says or implies.

    1. The original NYT headline emphasised capacity, and the article only referenced the proto-chip’s higher density compared with today’s functioning higher-powered chips. I’d prefer to think that MDN didn’t RTFA, rather than think they jimmied the headline for clicks.

  4. Ahh, totally loving MDN’s take. When I would talk about the singularity 10 years ago, people just thought I was crazy. Even 1 or 2 years ago, but now more and more people are understanding and seeing the light.

    1. Singularity? Ahh, no.

      Not gonna happen any time soon. If you want to build an AI that thinks like a human it would have to be able to experience all that humans do (eat, drink, have sex on the beach, etc.). It will need all our sensory inputs, which means it would need a seriously sophisticated android like robot. We’re a long way from that. Then it would take years (maybe decades/centuries) of learning at a human pace to acquire and process that input into an AI that we could call our equal.

      Even if all that comes to pass, who in their right mind would permit such a creation to have unfettered control over its own destiny, let alone humanity’s?

      1. I think it is happening faster than people realize. Machine learning is happening at an exponential rate which means not much appears to happen for some time and then you start seeing absolutely massive rates of change. There are some interesting books on this like “The Second Machine Age” by mcafee

  5. This is certainly an amazing web site. I love it. I had been thinking if anyone have learned about Punch Television Studios? This is certainly an awesome company building new opportunities in the entertainment business. They have recently reported that they’ll be funding movies up to $100 thousands us dollars. I was contemplating that when they did that, they are likely to need a lot music and sound effects for their pictures. I think the folks here may seek to look into it. #punchtv

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.