Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 25/06/2001The economists might look a little wan these days, but there are rosy cheeks on the solid-state physicists as basic R&D continues apace. IBM continues to do the sort of old-style inventing that we've missed so much in the dot com malarkey, and today it announces a 210GHz transistor, made out of silicon.

Monday
25/06/2001 The economists might look a little wan these days, but there are rosy cheeks on the solid-state physicists as basic R&D continues apace. IBM continues to do the sort of old-style inventing that we've missed so much in the dot com malarkey, and today it announces a 210GHz transistor, made out of silicon. That's a bit like the next generation of jet fighters turning up with Merlin engines and a wooden fuselage. Silicon, you see, just doesn't go that fast. Exotic materials like gallium go that fast, and need a lot of care. Silicon, which is easy to manipulate, just can't cut the mustard. Oh yes it does, says IBM, if you add a pinch of germanium. If you pardon me mixing my vehicular metaphors, germanium is the Model-T element of the semiconductor business; in the early days of the game, it proved that you could mass-produce transistors, but it was slow and ungainly. Silicon was trickier to make use of, but once the details had been sorted out germanium was shown the door. That it's back, it's fast and it's cool is as surprising to behold as a dinosaur playing a Steinway. Ah well, that's solid-state physics for you. I fully expect to see the first cats-whisker based 128 bit processor soon, and computers with a nice sunset motif on their dark brown bakelite monitor. I wonder if www.2LO.com is free...