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Space and time trade-offs in advanced computing

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:personal computing? 3D transistors? FinFETs? electronic keys?

Even in this very simple case, the optimal trade-offs are unclear. Are we optimising for space? Energy? Video quality? Data rate? Device cost? Incremental cost? How often do we expect to watch movies on the device? What network connections will be available? How big of a movie library do we want to access? The optimal setup depends on the answers to all of these questions, and on top of that, the answers are likely to change over time.

So while the best possible trade-offs may be impossible to pinpoint, it's clear that today's computing platform allows enough flexibility to enable many different usage models, so the application software can optimise the detailed settings on the fly.

Cloud on the horizon
As computing models continue to evolve, space and time in our new paradigm increasingly refer to storage space in the cloud, and time to retrieve information from the cloud. It simply makes sense to have data "online" as much as possiblethe inherent issues with device failures, backup procedures, and accidental deletion outweigh the benefits of most home grown solutions. This model frees up the local computing resource to focus on the personal human interfacetranslation, security, localized sensing, and ultimately, a more direct man-machine interface.

We still have some hurdles to clear on the security and privacy side of things, but biometric security measures are fast approaching, and at some point, we'll just have to learn that anonymity as an excuse for bad behaviour simply isn't a good idea.

Mobile computing
The tool of our time, our beloved smartphone, has in a few short years become the computer for the rest of us. As computing has become synonymous with communication, it's now difficult to tell whether smartphones are just enabling our means of communication, or helping to create new ways to communicate and socialise.

Part of the success of today's smartphone is certainly its uncanny ability to provide many different "killer apps" for many different people. From die-hard tweeters to Facebook fanatics, sports fans, finance gurus, politicos, hobbyists of every sort, journalists, professionals, and of course the gamers, the smartphone is the window onto a whole world of like-minded (and many vehemently opposed) individuals who want to talk about it. Oh, and it's also handy if you're just lost and want to find your way home, or simply want to make a phone call. All of this, available anytime, anywhereand it's right in your pocket.

Epilogue
As dawn breaks over the Olduvai Gorge, two figures can be seen huddled by a dying open fire in an attempt to keep warm until the sun renews the day. The smaller figure seems enamored by a small object he is cradling in both hands. The object has a screen, and shows two green dots next to a small orange dot in the centre of the screen, when suddenly a bright blue dot appears in the corner. The boy shrieks in fear, "Jaguar!" The larger figure glances over towards his son with a broadening grin, "Yeah. Text your friendsLet's go have a look!"

About the author
Cary Chinis Director of Technical Marketing at Synopsys Inc., and has 25 years of technical management experience in computer hardware and software design. Cary holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, and has taught computer science and programming classes from second grade computer lab up to the collegiate level at Stanford. In his spare time he teaches violin and viola, serves as President of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, and enjoys playing and coaching chamber music.

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