The increasing density of semiconductor technology and magnetic media that has been the mainstay of growth in personal computers and embedded systems show no signs of peaking. New techniques in both areas show promise for future advances.
In storage, hard drive manufacturers have finally figured out how to stand bits on end so more can be put on a square inch of media. Perpendicular recording technology has been in development for decades, but rotating the magnetic particles on a disk platter 90 degrees has proven far more difficult than expected. But Toshiba Storage Device Division of Irvine, CA, is starting to ship 1.8-inch disk drives that use perpendicular recording to cram 206 Mbits into a square millimeter (133 Gbits per square inch). Seagate Technology of Scotts Valley, CA, is also ramping up a perpendicular recording drive, the 2.5-inch Momentus 5400.3. When shipments begin late this year, its 160 Gbytes will be 25 percent above its nearest competitor, according to Seagate. Seagate predicts that perpendicular recording will let disk drives store 1 terabit in a square inch, giving a standard 3.5-inch disk platter 1 Tbyte of capacity.
Microprocessor techniques are also changing significantly. While Jeff Clarke, senior vice president at Dell Computer Corp., sees a nonstop continuation of Moore's Law, he predicts a major change in processor technology. If density and clock speeds continue doubling as in the past, "by 2020 a chip's surface will reach the temperature of the surface of the sun." That's why AMD and Intel are moving to dual-core processors. "Multi-core technologies are terribly important. With them, a two-socket server will see a threefold improvement in speed in two years while consuming less power," Clarke says.
PTC will offer a virtual desktop environment for its Creo product design applications, potentially freeing engineers to run them from remote desktops on a variety of operating systems and mobile devices.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.