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February 22nd, 2005
Slugfest in the Nanotech Trenches
On Feb. 1, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) announced what sounded like a major breakthrough in a press release enthusiastically titled, "Eliminating the Need for Transistors." The release said HP had built a tiny, molecule-scale switch called a "crossbar latch" that could perform the so-called logic operations of a computer on an unprecedentedly small scale (see BW Online, 2/1/05, "HP Prints a New Chapter in Circuitry"). "We are reinventing the computer at the molecular scale," said Stan Williams, a senior HP fellow, in the release.
Competitors in the field weren't so impressed. "I frankly think it's less significant than they are making it out to be" says Mark Horowitz, a physicist who specializes in circuitry and computer chip architecture at Stanford University, just down the road from HP's Silicon Valley research labs. "They aren't saying any mistruths, but there are more hurdles that need to be overcome in order for this to have" an actual integrated circuit. Other scientists were less polite, one even going so far as to call HP's news "twaddle."
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