Posted by: crudbasher | November 15, 2011

An Important Milestone in Computer Technology

AMD announced that they are now releasing a new processor for computers with 16 cores. Ok so even teachers who keep up with technology might not understand why this is notable. Let me explain.

The first computers had a single processing core. That means it could only do one thing at a time. We were still able to get a lot done by making them go faster and faster. The problem is, it’s becoming harder to make faster processors so we had to do something different. We added more processors in parallel. Here’s an analogy.

Let’s say you are a dishwasher at the restaurant. You have 500 dishes to wash and you have one hour to wash them in. Despite your best efforts and going as fast as you can, you can only wash 100 dishes per hour. So what do you do? Get some help. You get four other dishwashers to help you out. Together the five of you can do 500 dishes in an hour. (I know, I know, it was your understanding there would be no math) 😉

So, when you hear about modern computer chips, they talk about the number of cores. These are processors. So this new chip has up to 16 processors on a single chip. But why is this significant?

I’ve been watching the number of cores increase over time because of realtime raytracing. This is a computer graphics thing. Even the best computer games aren’t completely realistic today. Mostly this is because of the way lighting is handled. There is a better, much more realistic way to do lighting called raytracing but it’s very computationally intensive. It’s what movies use but they have lots of rendering time so they can afford to be slow. Here’s a great article on realtime raytracing if you want to know more.

Basically about 5 years ago, a researcher at Intel determined that in order to do realtime raytracing, you need at least 16 cores. At the time, 4 cores was a lot, but I knew it would gradually change.

Here’s a video of an Intel raytracing demo.

This new chip isn’t designed to do realtime raytracing but it does show that it’s now possible to put 16 cores on a single chip. I would imagine we will see a graphics chip in the next few years that has enough power and cores to bring true photorealistic graphics to video games.

This this technology will allow completely realistic simulations for use in training and education. It will facilitate a whole new era of experiential learning. It will be awesome!

Battlefield 3 (c) EA Games


    • AMD released two new families of Opteron processors based on the company’s “Bulldozer” architecture today, and previewed plans for a third, in the company’s latest effort to take back market share from Intel’s Xeon CPU in the server market.
    • The Opteron 6200 series processors, previously known by the code-name “Interlagos,” integrates two of the dies used for the desktop processor into a multi-chip module packing up to 16 cores, the most ever on an x86 processor. Opteron 6200s are targeted at the high-performance server market.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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