One tiny chip, one trillion operations per second

Scott Jagow Feb 12, 2007

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

SCOTT JAGOW: Intel shows off a new computer chip today that can do a trillion calculations per second, but it uses the energy of one 60-watt light bulb. A decade ago it took 10,000 of these processors and 16 light bulbs to do the job. Technology expert Barry Fox is with us. Barry, how big of a breakthrough is this?

BARRY FOX: What really excited me about this is not so much that the new chip will be able to do what would previously have been done by a room full of equipment, it’s that it uses much less power, much less electricity. It looks to me like this could signal a much more significant change in the way Intel makes chips and thereby make portable laptops, PDAs run cooler and run longer on their batteries.

JAGOW: Can you give us some idea of how much faster this chip really is?

FOX: Well we get into this area of teraflops.

JAGOW: And that’s t-e-r-a?

FOX: T-e-r-a. When we first used computers, they were running at kilohertz, that’s thousands of operations a second. Then they went to megahertz, which is millions. Then they went to gigahertz which is thousands of millions, and now we’re going to tera which is thousands of gigas.

JAGOW: What would you need that much power for?

FOX: You need that power when you do things that have to be very clever. Probably the best example is speech recognition. In other words, you and I are talking and as we talk our conversation is not only recognized, but also it can be converted into another language.

JAGOW: Wow.

FOX: And that has been always the Holy Grail.

JAGOW: Well this is pretty amazing stuff. Barry thanks so much.

FOX: It’s a pleasure.

JAGOW: IT expert Barry Fox.

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