Single-Chip Computers

News.com reports on Sun’s CTO Greg Papadopoulos’s statement that microprocessors are dead.

As new chip manufacturing techniques converge with new realities about the software jobs that computers handle, central microprocessors will gradually assume almost all the functions currently handled by an army of supporting chips, he said.

Eventually, Papadopoulos predicted, almost an entire computer will exist on a single chip–not a microprocessor but a “microsystem.” Each microsystem will have three connections: to memory, to other microsystems and to the network, Papadopoulos said.

He predicted that as more and more circuitry can be packed onto a chip, not just a single system but an entire network of systems will make its way onto a lone piece of silicon. He dubbed the concept “micronetworks.”

The ubiquity of networks is driving some of the changes, Papadopoulos said. In the past, the hardware to connect a computer to a network cost about $100. Now, it’s a few dollars, and soon it will be just a few cents, he predicted.

Along with that, software is increasingly built as a collection of services available from many systems connected to the network rather than a monolithic application that runs on a single computer.

Replacing a hodgepodge of individual hardware systems are two software technologies, Papadopoulos said: Java, invented by Sun; and .Net, invented by Microsoft. Those types of software services typically require hardware that juggles many threads simultaneously, he said.

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