September 20, 2001

Designers look to take computer chips off the clock

Author: JT Smith

Kelly McNeill writes: "When the first computer chip design pioneers huddled around in their low-tech, under-financed labs, one of the decisions they had to make was whether to stick in a clock. They needed something that would regulate all the components of the microprocessor in a reliable way, if they were to build something people could depend on. They decided there was no way around it, they had to go with a clock. Design historians say they made the right choice at the time. In any case, chip designers ever since have been trained to design microprocessors to work to the steady, if lightning-fast, beat of a clock. It's worked great so far. But there will come a time soon when those tiny, oscillating crystals in chips will bump head on into the laws of physics. That's why a handful of designers today are working on chips free from the constraints of man-made time."

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