In this issue of NanoNews-Now Editor Rocky Rawstern interviews Jeffrey Harrow (of the Harrow Group) on CPU and memory technology.

In a second section (titled "Roadmap"), we gather together semiconductor roadmap information, along with speculation on what lies ahead for the industry.

Join us as we present "CPU and Memory Technology"

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Jeffrey R. Harrow, The Harrow Group Jeffrey R. Harrow Principal, The Harrow Group
Author: "The Harrow Technology Report"

When it comes to advanced technology, Jeff Harrow is one of today's leading speculative thinkers. It has been said of his technology report that it "may be the single most fascinating newsletter there is on technology and its impact on our future, both pragmatically and philosophically."

In his reports, Jeff covers high technology topics ranging from "the consequences of the convergence of NBIC" (Nanotechnology, Biology & medicine, Information sciences, and Cognitive sciences) to Personal Fabricators (allowing anyone to make fully functioning systems), Light Tweezers to Renaissance Minds.

With wit and humor, and no small amount of deep thought, insight and vision, Jeff lays out the role of ever advancing technologies in the changing landscape of human evolution.

And his Motto: DON'T BLINK!

Take a minute of your day to wander through Jeff's fertile mind-fields, and get an idea of just where technology may be taking us (or where we may be taking technology ...).

Regarding CPU and memory technology, what trends get your attention, and why?

It's particularly interesting, although not entirely unexpected, that at this time, for most users the rush towards higher CPU clock speeds (the traditional mantra of the "computer generation") has given way to architectural changes. Foci such as dual-core CPUs, faster system busses, built-in wireless support, and especially power saving techniques and designs necessitated by the enormous heat dissipation of many current CPUs, are taking the forefront to improve end-user performance and capabilities.

Memory does continue to get faster and less expensive, with a gigabyte of memory (which is truly incredible if you think about it) now being quite affordable for even the typical home PC. Especially since disk drives are not increasing their access and data transfer speeds nearly as fast as system memory, lots of memory, and potentially far denser and non-volatile memory, will significantly improve system performance and change our ideas of "storage."

What aspects of memory and CPU technology advances do you find the most fascinating, and why?

I expect that exponential price/performance improvements will continue as predicted by the still valid, decades old Moore's Law (the doubling of the number of transistors in a given space, at the same cost). The old axiom, that whatever PC you purchase you'll soon want to improve (if you're a power user or gamer) will continue unabated.

I expect this to continue even as semiconductors keep approaching various physical limits. For example, in the rush towards higher density hard disks, scientists have several times approached "limits" such as the "paramagnetic limit" that threatened to bring progress to a halt, only to find innovative ways around or through every perceived limit.

When it comes to semiconductors, the same thing is happening. Even though elements that make up the tiny transistors on our current chips are now approaching just a few atoms thick, and so are unlikely to shrink further, other advances now in laboratories seem likely to open new techniques that render today's limits irrelevant. Carbon nanotube transistors hold the promise of far smaller molecular semiconductors. Quantum computing, even though currently envisioned only for specialized tasks, could harness forces within atoms. And even DNA, the stuff of life itself, has been harnessed for very specialized computing tasks where its ability to process data in parallel, rather than serially, holds the potential to drastically speed up computing.

I have little doubt that as we approach almost any currently-perceived limits, Moore's Law as we know it may be left in the dust by continuing "disruptive advances" developed by innovative and motivated people. After all, that's been the history of the human race!

Looking out 10 years, what applications do you see evolving from the advance of CPU and memory technologies?

Although we're long past the computing performance needed for typical home and office tasks such as word processing and Email, many scientific breakthroughs will continue to be driven by our exponentially increasing computing power. Ever more inexpensive and efficient ways of using computing power (such as Grid Computing that allowed the Human Genome Project to complete far more rapidly than anticipated), will continue to address the "hard" tasks that still demand vastly more computing power than is available today. Proteomics (learning to understand and control the incredibly complex 3D folded proteins that may be a next step towards controlling disease and aging); more accurate global weather predictions; simulated cellular and human body models that enable faster and cheaper and better drug research; and many more tasks will easily consume every computing cycle that the industry can deliver -- while they continue to demand more.

And these are only examples of the applications that we can think of today! If we look back ten years, much of what today's computer power enables had not been considered feasible (because it's so hard for most of us to grasp and act on the results of technological exponential growth). We can expect the same type of "ah ha" innovative insights to drive the next decade, and beyond, as well.

Given the rate at which technologies are shrinking computational and sensing devices, and coupled with the increase in coverage of terrorism (if not the actual increase of terrorism), are you concerned for our civil liberties? Why or why not?

If you think about it, almost every technological advance -- especially in the areas of data processing and telecommunications -- has impacted our original notion of privacy. For examples, when all conversations were face-to-face, it was rather difficult to eavesdrop on the content. Yet with the advent of the telegraph, telephone, Email, cell phone, local computer networks and the Internet, and now wireless computing, the opportunities for legitimately sanctioned, as well as illegitimate weakening of privacy, have increased. Especially driven by legislation in the U.S. post nine-eleven, the collection and processing of previously disparate and difficult-to-compile personal information offers a chilling picture of how each of our daily lives could be an open book.

Consider, for example, that unless you only use cash, it's trivial for law enforcement (or nefarious employees) to track your every purchase, which yields a time line of your movements. If you have a toll booth transponder in your car to add convenience and reduce delays, records are kept every time you pass through (and conceivably, extensions to this technology could unobtrusively note which highway entrances and exits you use, or even your progress on city streets.) Your cell phone, even if you don't make or receive calls, periodically touches base with the "mother ship" to let the cellular system know where to deliver any calls headed your way. Even without GPS activated, cell phone systems are becoming increasingly accurate in determining your location.

Finally, consider the potential privacy threats posed by new "RFID" (Radio Frequency Identification) chips, which seem destined to replace the ubiquitous UPC bar code on every product and within every passport. Since these devices give up their embedded information wirelessly, they might not only be used for beneficial applications such as checking out of a grocery store without having to unload the cart, or speeding up the long lines at passport control. If, for example, you identify yourself to a store through a loyalty card or the plastic you use to pay for your items, their computer has a record of explicitly what you're carrying out of the store. Conceivably, sensors on sidewalks or streets or in front of other stores could note which items (and which collections of items, such as those you've just purchased) are passing by, thereby tracking your movements. If these various computers were networked, a central facility could know far more about you than you might imagine. There's also concern that RFID chips in passports, which will contain personal information including some biometrics, may not encrypt the information. Since the chips can be read as a distance (not far by design but extendable by specialized antennas and signal processing), terrorists or other criminals might carry handheld readers that would enable them to target citizens of a particular country.

In our changing world some redefinition of the privacy and civil liberties that we have learned to expect may be necessary. But it behooves each of us, through our elected representatives, to carefully decide the shape of the world that we're creating for ourselves, and for our kids.

If you could send a message back to an earlier version of yourself, say ten years ago, what advice would you give yourself regarding CPU and memory technologies?

I'd confirm to myself that computational improvements foretold by Moore's Law will indeed continue unabated between 1995 and 2005, and that many "hard" computational problems of the 90s will become trivial. This should spur me to address many business opportunities that wouldn't be pursued by the less informed.

I'd also tell myself that, driven by this exponential technological growth, spectacular advances will be made in a wide variety of sciences and endeavors that extend far beyond data processing. The melding -- the Convergence -- of previously disparate disciplines such as NBIC (the coming together of Nanotechnology, Biology and medicine, Information sciences, and Cognitive sciences), will have a vast impact on societal changes. Indeed, as a result, I should know that during the ten years after 1995 it will increasingly be the cross-field educated "generalists," rather than the restricted specialists, who will be best positioned to recognize and pursue new scientific and engineering breakthroughs, and profitable new business opportunities.

I'd also remind myself that that during 1995 through 2005, as I do see the increasing impact on most human activities that are driven by the constant exponential growth of technology, the decade that may present 2005 self has yet to live through will make the changes of the past decade seem trivial by comparison. I'd remind myself that as I catch up to the year 2005, I should keep my eye on the next decade's changes, and on the increasing RATE of the changes, so that I will be in the best position to succeed while others plod along.

The Harrow Technology Report

Insight, analysis, and commentary on the innovations and trends of contemporary computing, and on its growing number of related technologies.

An ongoing journey towards understanding, and profiting from, a world of exponential technological growth!

Rocky Rawstern - Editor, Nanotechnology Now -
Rocky Rawstern
Editor Nanotechnology Now
Foresight Senior Associate


For this issue, I thought it appropriate to review some of the progress, statistics, and prognostications about CPU and memory technologies.

As I was doing research for this issue, what struck me hardest was the actual rate at which CPU and memory technologies were growing, and the applications and potential applications for them. As close as I monitor these issues, I was surprised to find how fast changes in technologies were occurring.

First and foremost, I want to define Moore's law, which is the lynchpin of CPU technologies:

Moore's Law - the number of transistors per integrated circuit doubles about once every two years, while the price of the chip remains the same.

And here is Intel's graph showing growth in the number of transistors over the past 35 years.

Moore's Law graph

Image Credit: Intel

In 1971, the Intel 4004 (the first single chip CPU) processor had 2,250 transistors, and cost around $200. It ran at 108KHz.

Introduced in 2000, the Intel Pentium 4 processor had 42,000,000 transistors, and cost around $600. It ran at 1.5GHz. (Note: $200 in 1971 would be worth - taking inflation into account - about $850 in 2000, and $960 today)

Today, one version of the Pentium 4 processor has over 150,000,000 transistors, uses 90 nanometer technology, costs around $650, and runs at 3.8GHz. Transistors have seen a seven orders of magnitude price reduction in since 1968.

Intel currently produces the world's smallest transistor -- about 50 nanometers -- half the size of a flu virus. "Think of a processor as a brain and transistors as brain cells. The more brain cells you have, the smarter the brain," says Intel's Manny Vara. link

Intel has also laid out their "roadmap" for semiconductor development through the year 2011, as seen here in a recent trade show slide. Existing technologies should allow them (and others) to reach nearly into single-digit transistor sizes (as measured in nanometers) within that time frame.

Intel 2011 Semiconductor Map

Image Credit: Intel. From the Intel Developer Forum Spring 2005

It looks like Moore's Law is good to go at least through 2011, and as you will read below, there are plently of innovative ideas that look to extend it many years beyond.

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To give you a better idea of how the future is shaping up for CPU and memory technologies, I have collected pertinent information and divided it into three categories:

CPU Technologies

Intel CEO Craig Barrett predicted that traditional chipmaking technology will permit features as small as 5 nanometers--about the width of 50 hydrogen atoms--to be used on processors.

"We can see how to do this down into the 5-nanometer range," Barrett said. "Beyond that, lots of leakage currents and things like that get in the way. But every time we seem to get into a roadblock, the bright engineers...seem to circumvent that problem." link

A project by University of Delaware researchers that could break down the brick wall of miniaturization (*) and revolutionize modern electronics through the formation and control of wires made of molecules. “We believe this work will be an important contribution to the field of molecular electronics as a means to produce new, smaller, faster devices that will lead further into the 21st Century and the era of nanotechnology,” Thomas P. Beebe Jr., professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said.

(*) “The brick wall refers to the smallest possible building blocks for these transistors--atoms and molecules.” Beebe link

Fujitsu claims to have answered a major technological problem of the future for chip makers by using carbon nanotubes to replace copper wires in circuits.

Carbon nanotubes can carry about 1,000 times the current density, or the current per unit area, compared to copper, according to Yuji Awano, a research fellow at Fujitsu Laboratories' Nanotechnology Research Center. In addition, they transmit electrons about 10 times faster and dissipate heat much more readily - characteristics that allow them to replace copper, he said. Fujitsu will use the carbon nanotubes on some of its 45-nanometre process chips and most or all of its 32-nanometre chips, Awano said. link

(Intel's) current dual-core processors are just the start of a broader move to stacking many cores onto a single processor die, the chip giant promised. Further reductions in the size of transistors will speed this process. "The next stage is to go beyond two cores. By 2015 we will be talking about many tens of cores per die, maybe even hundreds of cores, supporting maybe thousands of instruction threads."

"Instead of the clunky user interfaces like keyboards used today, we can have conversations with our technology devices," explained Rattner (Justin Rattner, Intel senior fellow and director of the corporate technology group). link

A team of scientists led by biophysicist Stuart Lindsay from the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has created the first reproducible single molecule negative differential resistor – and in the process has developed a groundbreaking experimental technique that provides a “roadmap” for designing single-molecule devices based on biochemistry.

“We have a working rational roadmap now for how to do this, and we’re already hard at work applying it to a wide variety of potentially exciting applications,” Lindsay says. link

We can now expect commodity CPUs with a BILLION transistors (compared to today's mere 55 million), not in the year 2010 as expected just a couple of years ago, but in 2007 - only three years from now! Jeffrey R. Harrow, from The Harrow Technology Report

"In our industry, we know that the vacuum tube yielded to the transistor, which in turn was overtaken by the IC. At each of these disruptive junctions, the established major players made efforts to stay in the game; these efforts ranged from serious and early commitments to "too-little, too-late" efforts at catching up. Yet, almost without exception, these attempts to stay viable failed, and new companies that didn't exist a few years before became the leaders in the next wave." Bill Schweber

In December 2002, IBM announced the world's smallest working silicon transistor. At just 6 nanometers in length, this new transistor is at least 10 times smaller than the state-of-the-art transistors in production today.

"Expect trillions of instructions per second (TIPS) performance by the end of the decade. There will be some major paradigm shifts, however, and "business as usual" will not be an option." Shekhar Borkar, Intel Fellow, Director of Circuit Research, Intel Labs. link

"Today's Pentium IV processor is the size of a dime, and sends electrons zipping around its 55 million transistors at 2 gigahertz, or 2 billion times per second. In 10 years the average silicon chip will likely contain a billion or more transistors and run at speeds exceeding 25 billion cycles per second. Already, exotic, high-performance chips, such as one made from silicon germanium that was recently announced by IBM, can exceed speeds of 100 gigahertz." link

Researchers from Yale University have made a light-emitting-diode (LED) that can emit one trillion light pulses per second.

AMD has developed a transistor with a gate length of 15 nm that can switch more than 3 trillion times per second!

Sixty million transistors were manufactured last year for every man, woman, and child on Earth. By 2010, that figure will reach 1 billion transistors a year. link

"The current number of transistors the (semiconductor) industry churns out each year is 10 to the 18th power, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, a figure sometimes expressed as one quintillion." link

Carbon nanotubes are already the top candidate to replace silicon when current chip features just can't be made any smaller, a physical barrier expected to occur in about 10 to 15 years. Dr. Phaedon Avouris, manager of nanoscale science, IBM Research. link

The nice thing about computers is that they can be built using anything that makes a decent switch. Molecular electronics, buckytube transistors, and interlocking mechanical systems are all candidates for computer logic. Chris Phoenix link

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have used the self-assembly of DNA molecules to build electronic devices from carbon nanotubes. The DNA acts as a scaffold for positioning a single-walled carbon nanotube at the heart of a field-effect transistor, as well as a template for the metallic wires connecting the device. link

"Expect trillions of instructions-per-second (TIPS) performance by the end of the decade. There will be some major paradigm shifts, however, and "business as usual" will not be an option." Shekhar Borkar, Intel Fellow, Director of Circuit Research, Intel Labs. link

Memory Technologies

  • 1 Megabyte: One small novel OR one 3.5 inch floppy disk
  • 5 Megabytes: The complete works of Shakespeare OR 30 seconds of TV-quality video
  • 1 Gigabyte: A pickup truck filled with paper OR A symphony in high-fidelity sound OR A movie at TV quality
  • 2 Gigabytes: 20 meters of shelved books OR A stack of 9-track tapes
  • 20 Gigabytes: A good collection of the works of Beethoven
  • 1 Terabyte: All the X-ray films in a large technological hospital OR 50,000 trees made into paper and printed
  • 2 Terabytes: An academic research library
  • 10 Terabytes: The printed collection of the US Library of Congress
  • 1 Petabyte: 3 years of Earth Observing System satellite data (2001)
  • 2 Petabytes: All US academic research libraries
  • 200 Petabytes: All printed material
  • 5 Exabytes: All words ever spoken by human beings.
Roy Williams CalTech Center for Advanced Computing Research

Under development at the University of California at Berkeley, OceanStore is a global-scale persistent data storage system, which may eventually manage 100 trillion files - 10,000 files each for 10 billion people.

The market for flash memory is booming. While the total capacity produced worldwide in the last year was some 11 million terabytes, the total is set to explode to about 105 million terabytes by 2007, according to market researchers Gartner Dataquest. Memory cards with a capacity of 1 Gbyte are expected to account for much of the growth. The largest cards will have a capacity of 8 Gbytes. link

February 24, 2005--Disk roadmaps are growing at 40 to 60 percent annually and now indicate a clear path to 5 terabytes or more per drive by 2012 at the latest. link

February 18, 2005--Fremont-based startup called Nanochip Inc. has developed prototype arrays of atomic-force probes, tiny instruments used to read and write information at the molecular level. These arrays can record up to one trillion bits of data -- known as a terabit -- in a single square inch. That's the storage density that magnetic hard disk drive makers hope to achieve by 2010. It's roughly equivalent to putting the contents of 25 DVDs on a chip the size of a postage stamp. link

The technique (stamping magnetic material onto a disk) could eventually lead to storage densities as high as 50 terabits per square inch. link

The vision of inventor Michael E. Thomas is 3D Atomic Holographic Optical Data Storage, a 10 Terabyte 3.5 in. removable disc. Says Thomas "Colossal Storage will be the only drive in the world that will be able to read any phase change disk with the capability of overwriting or infinitely rewriting data to any phase change disk by changing the internal molecular structure of the polarized atom dipole geometry without heat and cooling."

The Future?

Right now, $1,000 of computing power is between that of the brain of an insect and a mouse, at least in terms of hardware capacity. We will cross the threshold of the hardware capacity of the human brain by 2020, and the computers we use then will be deeply embedded in our environment. Computers per se will disappear; they will be in our bodies, in tables, chairs, and everywhere. But we will routinely have enough power to replicate human intelligence in the 2020s. Ray Kurzweil

"By 2010, one billion PCs and 2.5 billion handheld devices as powerful as Pentium 4 systems will be linked in a global computing network." Paul Otellini, Intel's President and CEO

BCC projects that nanoelectronic memory devices will enter the market this year, and bring in $200 billion by 2008. Logic devices will have a more modest $20 billion market by 2008. Small Times

"As a result of the progress in worldwide research in molecular-scale electronic computers, it seems likely that a functioning prototype of a molecular memory or a molecular processor will be demonstrated in the next 2 - 5 years." James Ellenbogen MITRE

"By 2009, there will be over 2 billion Internet-enabled devices, each with an IP address, in the U.S. alone, and 6 billion altogether." Howard Schmidt vice chair of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board.

The next two or three years may not be so different from today, but the next five to 10 years will be absolutely revolutionary. That's the irony of the exponential in Moore's Law. As we move from the age of silicon to molecular and quantum computing, the torch will pass to companies and countries that put a premium on leaders with the wisdom and creativity to help us change. Michio Kaku

"In the future, nanocomputers could be so small that the circuitry for a simple computer might fit on a single conventional microelectronic transistor. A moderately capable electronic computer might fit on a surface with an area no bigger than that of a bacterium. A supercomputer integrated on the nanometer scale could fit easily on top of a grain of salt." James Ellenbogen, MITRE

"Users can expect to see the processing speed of Intel's desktop processors hit 15 GHz and that of wireless device and PDA processors hit 5 GHz by 2010 ... The 15-GHz desktop chip ... will pack one billion transistors." Pat Gelsinger, VP / CTO of Intel. link

"A petabyte of data is difficult to fathom. Think of it as the equivalent of 250 billion pages of text, enough to fill 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets. Or imagine a 2,000-mile-high tower of 1 billion diskettes. Whatever you do, don't stop there - because it's the amount of data many businesses will be managing within the next five years." link

In the chip-making world of the future, microprocessor makers will likely use carbon nanotubes instead of transistors to make chips smaller and more powerful.

"There's a lot of work going on in carbon nanotubes and some other exotic devices which may be the next technology that takes us to new levels of speed and performance," said Agilent Technologies CEO Ned Barnholt. link

"If you think about it, we used to be in an era where thousands of users shared one mainframe computer," said Meyyappan. "Then we moved to, and still are in, the personal computing era with one person to one computer.

"In the future, we will go to an ubiquitous computing era where hundreds of computers will share each of us. We are talking about connecting our world with chips and we already have a lot of these in our cars. Much of this in the IT sector will happen in a decade or so, and nanotechnology will help drive it." Meyya Meyyappan, director, Center for Nanotechnology, Ames Research Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

"A processor in 2002 is 10,000 times faster than a processor in 1982 was. This trend has been in place for decades, and there is nothing to indicate that it will slow down any time soon. Scientists and engineers always get around the limitations that threaten Moore's law by developing new technologies."

"A 10 MEGAbyte hard disk cost about $1,000 in 1982. Today you can buy a 250 GIGAbyte drive that is twice as fast for $350. Today's drive is 25,000 times bigger and costs one-third the price of the 1982 model..."

"In the same time period - 1982 to 2002 - standard RAM (Random Access Memory) available in a home machine has gone from 64 KILObytes to 128 MEGAbytes - it improved by of factor of 2,000."

"What if we simply extrapolate out, taking the idea that every 20 years things improve by a factor of 1,000 or 10,000? What we get is a machine in 2020 that has a processor running at something like 10 trillion operations per second. It has a TERAbyte of RAM and one or two PETAbytes of storage space (a petabyte is one quadrillion bytes)."

"What if we extrapolate ANOTHER 20 years after that, to 2040? A typical home machine at that point will be 1,000 times faster than the 2020 machine. Human brains are thought to be able to process at a rate of approximately one quadrillion operations per second. A CPU in the 2040 time frame could have the processing power of a human brain, and it will cost $1,000. It will have a PETAbyte (one quadrillion bytes) of RAM. It will have one EXAbyte of storage space. An exabyte is 1,000 quadrillion bytes." From "Robotic Nation" by Marshall Brain link

“Suddenly, for the first time, our computers have the ability to see and hear the world from our perspective through microphones and cameras on wearable eyepieces and headsets. Soon, our computers might be able to observe what we do all day, understand what is important to us, and act as a virtual assistant who helps us on a second-by-second basis,” link

In a keynote speech to the (WWW2004) conference, Microsoft's Rashid described what consumers might do with a terabyte of data storage that costs around $1,000 and is capable of holding more than 1 trillion bytes of computer data.

"You can store every conversation you have ever had, from the time you are born to the time you die," Rashid said.

A person could have snap picture with a 180-degree fish-eye view of one's surroundings for every minute of every day for the rest of one's life.

Microsoft researchers in the United Kingdom have built prototypes of such a life-recording device called SenseCam. They are gearing up for a second generation of photo capture systems no bigger than a necklace pendant, Rashid said. link
(Ed.'s note: today you can buy that terabyte of data storage for under $900)

The industries that nanotechnology will likely have a disruptive effect on in the near term include the following:
(Amounts are Billions of US Dollars)




Long Term Care








U.S. Chemical












Hospitality / Restaurant


US Insurance




Corrosion Removal


US Steel




Diet Supplement


















Blue Jeans




Fluorescent Tagging

Figures are from:

The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. J Uldrich & D Newberry. March 2003
Read our review

NANO - John Robert Marlow. Hardcover January 2004
Our Review
The Superswarm Interview
The Superswarm Option
Nanoveau - This column will cover the science, the speculation, and (occasionally) the politics of nanotechnology and related topics. If you want to know what nanotech is about, and how and why it will change everything we know-Nanoveau is for you.

Got Nanotechnology?
If not, read this:

Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World.
Douglas Mulhall, March 2002
Read our review


In many new technologies, it is common to overestimate what can be done in five years' time, and to underestimate what can be done in 50 years' time. Unknown

"Because of nanotechnology, we will see more change in the next thirty years than we did during all of the twentieth century." M. Roco, NSF

Last year alone, the amount of data stored on paper, film, optical and magnetic media reached five exabytes - or 5 million terabytes. Peter Lyman and Hal Varian of Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems (2003)

"Imagine that you could travel back in time to the year 1900. Imagine that you stand on a soap box on a city street corner in 1900 and you say to the gathering crowd, "By 1955, people will be flying at supersonic speeds in sleek aircraft and traveling coast to coast in just a few hours."

In 1900, it would have been insane to suggest that. In 1900, airplanes did not even exist. Orville and Wilbur did not make the first flight until 1903. The Model T Ford did not appear until 1909.

Yet, by 1947, Chuck Yeager flew the X1 at supersonic speeds. In 1954, the B-52 bomber made its maiden flight. It took only 51 years to go from a rickety wooden airplane flying at 10 MPH, to a gigantic aluminum jet-powered Stratofortress carrying 70,000 pounds of bombs halfway around the world at 550 MPH. In 1958, Pan Am started non-stop jet flights between New York and Paris in the Boeing 707. In 1969, Americans set foot on the moon. It is unbelievable what engineers and corporations can accomplish in 50 or 60 short years.

There were millions of people in 1900 who believed that humans would never fly. They were completely wrong. However, I don't think anyone in 1900 could imagine the B-52 happening in 54 years."

From "Robotic Nation" by Marshall Brain

Jeffrey Harrow: A little trip down memory lane: In 1984 I purchased the first commercially available hard disk drive for my Macintosh -- it had a capacity of 20 MEGAbytes, and cost $1,200. That's $60 per MEGAbyte.


Now, 20 years later, the latest prices I see at (with whom I have no affiliation other than as an occasional customer) include an offer of a 200,000 MEGAbyte (200 GIGAbyte) disk drive for $99.99 after rebate! That's -- $0.0005, or 5 one-hundredths of a penny -- per MEGAbyte (compared to $60 per MEGAbyte).

That's a 120,000-times price reduction in 20 years. Impressive!

Even More!

And if that's not capacity enough for you, consider that you can get a 300,000 MEGAbyte (300 GIGAbyte) drive for $279.99 (although in this case you're paying more - $0.0009, or 9 hundredths of a penny - per MEGAbyte - for this serious capacity). Harrow Technology Report

From Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World, by Douglas Mulhall:

  • What happens to the monetary system when everyone is able to satisfy his own basic material needs at very low cost?
  • How would we use cash when digital manufacturing makes it impossible to differentiate a counterfeit bill or coin from the real thing?
  • What happens to fiscal policy when digital information, moving at light speed, is the major commodity?
  • How fast will monetary cycles move compared to, say, the ten- or twenty-year cycles of the late twentieth century, when products and patents go out of date in a matter of months instead of years?
  • What happens when we don't have to worry about trade or social services for our basic needs, because most of what we need is provided locally with digital manufacturing, and the biggest trade is in information?
  • How do we control the excesses of the ultrarich, the overabundance of the molecular assembler economy, and the challenge to intellectual property laws created by intelligent, inventive machines?
  • What happens if half of all jobs are made redundant every decade?
  • What happens to the War on Drugs when there's no import, export, or transport of contraband because drugs can be manufactured in a desktop machine using pirated software downloaded from the Internet?
  • What happens to democratic controls when individuals can get as rich as small governments in a year or so?
  • What's the relevance of insurance if many things are replaceable at very low capital cost, but liabilities from software are potentially unlimited?
  • How should organized labor react when molecular assemblers and intelligent robots eliminate most manufacturing jobs?
  • What is the nature of work going to be?
  • What happens to land prices when an individual can build a tropical farm under a bubble in North Dakota, and get there from New York in an hour?
  • What happens when everyone can go everywhere, whenever they want, and work from wherever they want?

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Useful Links

Intel Microprocessor Hall of Fame

Inside Computers: An In Depth Guide

The history of Storage Past, Present, and Future by C David Wright University of Exeter

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Issue #22 will cover Jobs in Nanotechnology. It will land in your mailbox April 4th, 2005.

Infamous Quotes:

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." Western Union internal memo, 1876
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Physicist and mathematician Lord Kelvin, President of the British Royal Society, 1895
"Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles H. Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899
"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom." - Robert Milikan, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1923
"Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility-a development which we should waste little time dreaming about." - Lee de Forest, inventor of the cathode ray tube, 1926
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." IBM's Thomas Watson, 1943
"Landing and moving around on the moon offer so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them." - Science Digest, August 1948
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Popular Mechanics, 1949
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olsen, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977

And the lesson is? It's a tough game to call.

Need advice? Check out NanoStrategies

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