Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not represented as fact|
It's hard to believe just how much the microprocessor has changed our lives in
the 30 short years since the first wimpy 4-bit processor was designed
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These tiny little pieces of silicon are now a very important part of almost
everyone's lives and are being incorporated into an ever-increasing array
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Without the ubiquitous microprocessor, many of the every-day items we now take
for granted would either be impossible to make, or very pale imitations of the
versions we now have.
If you take a walk around your house, you might just be surprised at how many
microprocessors you own. Check your microwave, TV, VCR, car, watch, PC,
cellphone, fax machine, etc, etc and you'll see what I mean.
Even more stunning is the rate at which the microprocessor has been developed
and enhanced over the past three decades.
The original Intel 4004 was a very simple 4-bit chip that ran at a leisurely
0.1 MHz -- just 1/20,000th the speed of today's screaming 32-bit, 2GHz
Once the potential of this little chip became apparent, it spawned a gold-rush
not unlike the recent dot-com boom. Many Intel employees left the company
and had little trouble obtaining huge sums of venture capital to set up their
own microprocessor design and manufacturing facilities.
Back in the "good old days" there were dozens of companies competing with Intel.
Names such as Zilog, Fairchild, Signetics, RCA, and others were all vying
for a share of this burgeoning revolution.
Of course these days, the microprocessor industry has paralleled the software
one, with Intel eclipsing almost everyone to become the dominant player in
the desktop CPU market.
There are other players such as AMD, Motorola, etc -- but just as Linux struggles
to ankle-tap Microsoft, these companies are finding it very hard to unseat
the ruling king.
You really have to wonder how long Moore's law can continue, and exactly how
much computing power we'll be able to hold in the palm of one hand on the
microprocessor's 50th birthday.
And now, the latest location you'll find the ubiquitous microprocessor chip
is in your credit card.
Tom Pullar-Strecker makes some interesting observations on this latest piece
of gee-wizardry in
an interesting piece
on the Stuff site.
Personally, I can't see cards like this being a particularly viable improvement
to the security of online shopping until the banks provide us all with free
card-readers for our PCs.
Without such a card reader, the idea of associating a PIN with a card seems
to be little different to EFTPOS. And have you ever wondered why
the banks haven't been promoting EFTPOS as a viable method of payment for
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