Processor Die Sizes have shrunk so much that quantum tunneling becomes an issue that error correction and detection have to solve.
Episode #11-46 released on July 13, 2021
You are an electron, you are flowing through power lines, then through a power supply unit, and subsequently through the traces of a mainboard, headed towards the processor. In the last few decades, the die size of transistors has gone from 10 micrometers to the current 5 nanometers. The path is shorter, the walls getting thinner and thinner, the insulation is near non-existent, and the transistor gate is currently open. As an electron, your position in the circuit is not completely known at all times, you started from the closed side of the transistor and make it to the other side through a process known as quantum tunneling. You were meant to be a 0 but you come out a 1. This is where we are at. Processor designers are actually at the point where this is a real issue and the way we design processors will change forever.
For decades we have shrunk the processor die size to allow for better and better performance. We eventually had the space and need for more processor cores, going from dual core to hundreds of cores. The smaller sized cores have resulted in better performance and have resulted in more and more heat output. However, that is not the end of our problems. We will no longer have to deal with the periodic errors of processors, but the fact of life that we have crossed into the world of quantum tunneling and it will cause a whole host of issues at the same time that we have yet to completely understand.
Now, you may think that the changing of a single bit from 0 to 1 or vice versa can be meaningless, but you can easily change the RGB value of a webpage for c to g, but switching the 4 value of binary from 0 to 1, which is possible with quantum tunneling, and that does not seem like a big deal but you go from a letter that is within the hexadecimal values to one that is not, which breaks that particular value, which can cause a whole host of other issues.
And do not get everything twisted, we will find ways of making processor transistors smaller and faster, until we have to redesign the entire architecture of computers, and it is conceivably possible that occurs within all of our lifetimes, just not right now. However, keep something in mind, every time your computer experiences errors, imagine how many more errors would crash your computer if it were not for the real star of computer hardware development, error correction technology. Error correction and detection is the real star and without it, we would have a lot more data corruption and command execution errors.
With more cores, smaller processor dies, higher clock rates, more data, and commands being processed per second, error correction has been vital to computer technology and is the reason why drives, processors, ram, etc. experience far fewer issues than before. Our computers, by comparison, are far more stable than previous generation computers, because we have error correction and detection, has become better and better with technology.
The way error correction works, simply said, is with the use of extra information that is added to commands and data being processed. The error detection and correction hardware validate that all the information and commands sent, received, and executed have been done so correctly, and if it has not, it is cleared and restarted until it is done successfully. This means that your devices are less likely to crash, suffer data corruption, etc. because of the advancements, in comparison to previous generation devices and computers.
Which brings us back to our first voyage as the electron, you come into the device via power lines, through the power supply, then through the traces into the processor, you head over to the transistor gate, it is closed, you miraculously tunnel to other side, forcing the character in hexadecimal code to g from c to g, which would cause a problem. The error detection software sees this and reissues the command. A fellow electron heads up to the transistor gate, which is open. Instead of tunneling, the processor emits the correct value, which the error check validates, and this time the code is executed without issue. And because of the smaller die size, and the increased number of processing cores and transistors, the correction occurs so fast that you do not even notice the extra delay.
Without the shrinking of transistors, we cannot make computers, as they are built now, to function faster because of the need of less power per transistor. With the shrinking of transistors, we have to deal with data and code execution errors. Without error correction and detection, we cannot shrink the size of transistors and processors without incurring errors that would crash the computer, device, application, operating system, etc. Without the shrinking of transistors, we cannot make error correction hardware that can process all of the data and commands sent to processors to validate all of the information. And more importantly, without error correction, all of your photos, documents, projects, music, movies, etc. would be at risk at being lost every single time you clicked save, because without error correction, data corruption is a real problem.
Host : Steve Smith | Music : | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Dot Net