I’ve heard the “Moore’s Law won’t apply anymore” discussion dozens of times. There used to be talk that the V. 34+ speeds of 33.6 kbps represented the very fastest that US phone lines could ever handle. It just wasn’t scientifically possible to go any faster. Of course, smart people figured out how to take advantage of digital transmission over analog lines, initially with x2 and K.flex 56 kbps modem technology, and now with DSL. Everyone on broadband laughs at the performance of dial-up – but imagine if we were stuck with just 33.6 kbps modems!
CPUs have been on their “last legs” many times. There was once talk of the CPU outclassing the motherboard, memory, and peripheral bus – where components such as RAM or SCSI controllers simply could not deal with the high bus-speeds of the CPU. Moore’s Law was supposed to be doomed with CPUs no longer being able to improve, and lo and behold, the concept of clock multipliers was introduced with the 486 DX2/66. Imagine a world where we didn’t have clock multipliers and you were trying to run your soundcard on a bus speed of several gigahertz!
Well, most recently, there has been talk of CPUs drawing too much power, dissipating too much heat, and that improvements in fabrication weren’t progressing fast enough to allow CPUs to continue to grow at their current rate. The CPU industry was supposedly on its last legs again. Yet the solution to this problem was found in multi-core processor technology where multiple CPUs could be integrated into a single physical chip. In 10 years, we will all look at the introduction of multi-core CPUs to the mainstream to be as meaningful and significant as the invention of the clock multiplier – that is to say, one day we will all think that multi-core processors were how modern CPUs have always been.
The first dual core CPU on the market was IBM’s Power4 chip in 2001, but this was reserved for true enterprise grade servers and sites willing to shell out over a half a million dollars for a single server: by Christmas 2005, many gamers and PC enthusiasts will likely own a dual core CPU.
Today, we’ll be looking at AMD’s multi-core technology, the latest manufacturer to enter the multi-core world. Officially, in today’s announcement AMD’s dual core technology is limited to Socket 940 Opteron CPUs, however it doesn’t take any effort to predict that this technology will trickle down to the Athlon64 line in the future – AMD readily confirms that desktop dual core processors are on their way late in the 2nd quarter.