The Mega Foundation

"The Cell" Looms Larger


Political Index

   Remember "The Cell"? (Sony, IBM, Toshiba chips to bring supercomputers home)
    It's the one-teraflops chip under development by IBM, Sony and Toshiba. "The Cell", first announced in March, 2001, is designed to power Sony's Playstation 3, scheduled to appear in 2005. "The Cell" is also tipped to support broadband multi-computer operation that will allow the easy implementation of desktop-based  supercomputers.
    Sony and Toshiba have just announced (April 23, 2003) plans to invest billions of dollars in new semiconductor foundries to enable the manufacture of "The Cell" as well as other circuitry.
Sony, Toshiba disclose chip fab plans - Google
Sony sinks $1.6 billion into 'Cell' plant - Business Week
Sony Pushing Forward on Next Generation Broadband Chip
Sony to build 65-nm, 300-mm fab line in Japan - El. Engr. Times
Sony preps 128-Mbit MPU with embedded DRAM - Silicon Strategies
Sony expected to use IBM architecture in Playstation 3 - Silicon Strategies
    Suffice it to say that "The Cell" is alive and well, and is still tipped to deliver one teraflops. It will achieve this speed through parallel floating-point operations. It will initially appear in 2005,
presumably for incorporation into PlayStation 3, and will initially be built using 65-nm. design rules, to be followed by 45-nm features scheduled for late 2007. (It won't make major inroads into desktop computing before 2006 or 2007.)
    It should revolutionize many computing applications... those that can profit from parallel processing.
    Parallel processing has been a way to speed certain kinds of processing, such as graphics processing, and has been employed for many years in digital signal processing. Graphics chips, such as those manufactured by nVidia and ATI, have wrought their magic through parallel processing. Multi-processing -- the use of multiple computers to perform different computations in parallel -- is now entering into the mainstream, with IBM's PowerPC-4 and the soon-to-appear Montecito chip from Intel.
    Intel's Madison processor is probably capable of 15 to 20 gigaflops. Intel's Tanglewood processor, due to appear in 2006, is said to be 10 times faster than Intel's Madison processor (Tanglewood to run 10x faster than Madison), or at, perhaps, 150 to 200 gigaflops. This is still slower than The Cell, but less than an order of magnitude. Intel has promised a teraflops chip by 2010.
    These kinds of speeds should revolutionize what computers can do, well ahead of what an exponential extrapolation would predict.