Is 45 is the new 60, or Rodney Dangerfield?

In just 45 days, Intel will honor the 60th anniversary of the invention of the transistor. On December 16th, 1947 the first practical point-contact transistor was built at Bell Labs. Transistors are the fundamental on/off electrical switches for every device we use – TVs, PCs, laptops, alarm clocks, cell phones, MP3 players – even cars – everything. All of us take them for granted – like Rodney used to say, they “don’t get no respect.” (Yes, I am probably revealing my age here) Yet one could argue it is one of the most important inventions of the 20th century, as the incessant and relentless pace of discovery and change is directly attributable to this one little device.

Now, the number 45 is a significant one, as Intel shrinks transistors so tiny that we can stuff more than 800 million of them into a four-brained (quad-core) processor about half the size of a stamp. In fact, about two million transistors can fit inside the period at the end of this sentence. Bell Labs’ first transistor in 1947 could be held in your hand. Heck, if a house shrunk at the same pace that Intel has shrunk transistors, you would require a special electron microscope to find the front door. Penryn%20with%20Stamp.JPG

Taking advantage of Moore’s Law (the approximate doubling of transistor density on a chip about every two years), Intel has always made transistors smaller and more powerful. The tiny-ness of the transistor, its most powerful society changing feature – has become it’s Achilles Heel. The smaller the parts of the transistor got, the less effective they were at keeping the electricity flowing within its walls. For example, the transistors that make up Intel’s latest Core 2 Duo chips have a gate dielectric that is just 5 atoms wide – downright porous from an electrons perspective! The leakage issue threatened the end of Moore’s Law and the expected performance and battery life improvements we’ve helped to deliver time after time. That is until Intel essentially reinvented key parts of the transistor with new materials.

We call our transistor breakthrough “Intel 45nm high-k metal gate silicon technology.” It incorporates a combination of new materials plucked from the tried and true periodic table (yes, brings back high school chemistry class memories, I know), including one called Hafnium (atomic number 72 and the symbol Hf). So, not only does Intel continue to deliver record-breaking processor speeds — but these new materials reduce transistor leakage thereby boosting energy-efficiency and reducing costs – and keeps Moore’s Law alive and kicking… all thanks in large part to a new recipe developed by a team of brilliant Intel engineers.

So in 45 days, on December 16th, take a moment to celebrate this milestone anniversary. Buy your iPod a new case. Give your laptop a pat on the back. And later this month look for our newest Intel processors with reinvented transistors manufactured on our new 45 nanometer process (gift-wrap not included).

Heck, if 25 is the “Silver” anniversary, and 50 is “Gold”…hmm, what precious gem is 60? I wonder how many transistors can I fit on 2 CT earrings?? (far too many – Ed.)

3 Responses to Is 45 is the new 60, or Rodney Dangerfield?

  1. Igor says:

    Christine, do not forget that you are writing for international audience — for example I am not getting your “Yes, I am dating myself here” joke.