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LoD Viewpoints March 2007

Multicore Chips and Parallel Processing for High-End Learning Environments

Computing power is a key enabler for high-end learning environments such as three-dimensional simulations, games,and virtual worlds. The availability of inexpensive, multicore, parallel computers may revolutionize high-end    learning environments if programmers can create and convert software for the new computer systems. This Viewpoints, which examines the field of multicore chips and parallel processing, is relevant to all learning-industry players    interested in new hardware trends.

Since the invention of microprocessors at Intel in the late 1960s, improvements in their speed and power have become expected and generally assumed by the marketplace. However, in 2004, Moore's law ran into a major speed bump that led developers to transform microprocessor designs and, with them, computer programming. Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, originally predicted that the number of transistors in the same surface area on a microchip would double every 18 months. In 2004, chip designers hit a wall—because each new chip not only doubled in performance but also doubled in power dissipation, resulting in the production of excessive heat that the chip could not easily expel. Because of this barrier, Intel canceled its planned successor to the Pentium 4 in 2004 and gave up on its goal of producing a chip with a 10-GHz clock rate by 2010 (microprocessors now generally operate little faster than about 3 GHz). Currently, and for the first time in some 20 years, the line plotting microprocessor performance per unit of surface area has dipped below the line plotting Moore's law. This change has severe consequences for the consumer electronics and computer industries, which expect continual improvements in microprocessors' power for their ongoing business.

Download the report here:
Multicore Chips and Parallel Processing for High-End Learning Environments