Monday, May 17, 2004

Welcome to our Nano Nightmare

Intel – therefore the entire chip industry – is getting a rude and embarrassing wake-up call, and learning the truth to the cliché that pioneers are usually the ones who end up with arrows in their backs. It's also learning why nobody but the brave and foolish is doing "nanotechnology."

As soon as the number-one microchip maker's chip-feature sizes reached below that magic 100-nanometer limit, Intel proudly declared itself to be pioneering "nanotechnology." Really, it was just a continuation of miniaturization. But, what the heck. Nano's got the buzz, and it sure couldn't do Intel any harm.

Now, Intel's latest microprocessors are running slow and hot -- so much so that the huge frigate is stopping dead in the water and making some sharp turns. Not an easy feat for the world's largest maker of microchips. The problem is this. Those chips are not micro anymore. They've crossed the threshold into "nano," and Intel is finding out for itself why nanotech is such demanding and frustrating work.

    The problem, as they see it, is simply that Intel, as the industry leader, is the first one forced to struggle with the effects of pushing the envelope in advanced manufacturing processes, namely by moving to build chips with a minimum feature size as small as 90 nanometers from the industry standard of 130 nanometers.

    "The interesting sign here is that Intel is leading on the state of the art," said David Ditzel, vice chairman and chief technology officer of the Transmeta Corporation, a maker of low-power-consuming processors in Santa Clara, Calif. "It will not be the only company to experience the shock and panic. It will happen to hundreds of other companies." More here

Update: Intel is planning to push its vision of ubiquitous, always-on computing in the home. Reliable, fast, cheap, portable, powerful memory will necessarily need to be a part of this "Digital Home" of our dreams. Maybe it's time for Nanosys to remember where it placed its molecular memory in time for Intel's ad campaign?

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Intel's 'Nano Inside'
Nano is chocolate in silicon's peanut butter

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Samsung is down to 70nm, this is starting to get good:

From a report:

SEOUL, KOREA, May 20, 2004 Samsung Electronics announced that it has developed the industry's first CVD aluminum process technology, the very latest 70-nanometer node DRAM process technology employing the Chemical Vapor Deposition or CVD method.