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Winston

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Inside The Worlds Largest Semiconductor Factory (TSMC)

 

Winston

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The Whirlwind computer was an incredibly important computer for advancing computer science, the tech for which was later used in the huge SAGE system:

The Story of Whirlwind Computer Operator Joe Thompson


IBM Sage Computer Ad, 1960


The Futuristic Cold War Era SAGE Air Defense Bunkers Looked Right Out Of A Kubrick Film
The sci-fi-esque bunkers were scattered across North America and sat ready to fend off nuclear-armed Russian bombers.
MARCH 14, 2019








Great book:

From Whirlwind to MITRE: The R&D Story of The SAGE Air Defense Computer


 

Winston

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MAY 11, 2020
Scientists create new recipe for single-atom transistors


Once unimaginable, transistors consisting only of several-atom clusters or even single atoms promise to become the building blocks of a new generation of computers with unparalleled memory and processing power. But to realize the full potential of these tiny transistors—miniature electrical on-off switches—researchers must find a way to make many copies of these notoriously difficult-to-fabricate components.

Now, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues at the University of Maryland have developed a step-by-step recipe to produce the atomic-scale devices. Using these instructions, the NIST-led team has become only the second in the world to construct a single-atom transistor and the first to fabricate a series of single electron transistors with atom-scale control over the devices' geometry.

The scientists demonstrated that they could precisely adjust the rate at which individual electrons flow through a physical gap or electrical barrier in their transistor—even though classical physics would forbid the electrons from doing so because they lack enough energy. That strictly quantum phenomenon, known as quantum tunneling, only becomes important when gaps are extremely tiny, such as in the miniature transistors. Precise control over quantum tunneling is key because it enables the transistors to become "entangled" or interlinked in a way only possible through quantum mechanics and opens new possibilities for creating quantum bits (qubits) that could be used in quantum computing.
 

Winston

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Yeah, baby!

Taiwan Based TSMC To Build 5nm Fab In Arizona, Set To Come Online In 2024
May 15, 2020


In a big shift to their manufacturing operations – and a big political win domestically – TSMC has announced that the company will be building a new, high-end fab in Arizona. The facility, set to come online in 2024, will utilize TSMC’s soon-to-be-deployed 5nm process, with the ability to handle 20,000 wafers a month. And with a final price tag on the facility expected to be $12 billion, this would make it one of the most expensive fabs ever built in the United States.

Operating over a dozen fabs across the globe, TSMC is responsible for a significant share of global logic chip production, particularly with leading-edge and near-leading-edge processes. The company has become perhaps the biggest winner amidst the gradual winnowing of fabs over the past two decades, as manufacturer after manufacturer has dropped out, consolidating orders among the remaining fabs. And with GlobalFoundries dropping out of the race for cutting-edge manufacturing nodes, TSMC is one of only three companies globally that's developing leading-edge process nodes – and one of the only two that’s a pure-play foundry.

This success has become both a boon and a liability for TSMC. Along with Korean rival Samsung, the two companies have seen massive growth in revenues and profits as they have become the last fabs standing. As a result, TSMC serves customers both locally and globally, particularly the United States and China, the two of which are not enjoying the best of relations right now. This leaves TSMC trapped in the middle of matters – both figuratively and literally – as China needs TSMC to produce leading-edge chips, and the United States is now increasingly reliant on TSMC as well following GlobalFoundries’ retreat.

As a result, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is going to do something it’s never done before, building a near-leading-edge fab in the US, outside of its home base of Taiwan. The new facility, set to be constructed in Arizona, will use the company’s 5nm process, which is currently TSMC’s most advanced manufacturing process. And while this will no longer be the case by the time it comes online in 2024, when 3nm processes are likely to be available, it would still make the Arizona facility among the most advanced fabs in the world, and by far the most advanced contract fab in the United States.

The Arizona facility would be joining TSMC’s other US fab, which is located in Camas, Washington. It, like TSMC’s other non-Taiwanese-fabs, is based around older technologies, with the Camas fab in particular focusing on building flash products using relatively large process nodes (350nm to 160nm). As a result, the Arizona fab represents a significant shift for TSMC; it’s not the first US fab for the company, but it’s the first time TSMC has built such an advanced fab in another nation.

All told, the Arizona fab is set to be a medium-sized facility – a “megafab” in TSMC parlance – despite its use of an advanced manufacturing node. The 20,000 wafers per month throughput of the fab is well below TSMC’s largest “gigafabs” in Taiwan, which can move more than 100,000 wafers per month. As a result while the fab will add to TSMC’s 5nm capacity, it won’t become a massive part of that capacity. Though with an expected price tag of $12 billion, it will still be a very expensive facility to build.

According to TSMC, the primary impetus for building the fab – and especially to build it in the United States instead of Taiwan – is specifically to have high-end production capacity within the United States. With GlobalFoundries dropping out of the race for leading-edge nodes, the US government and other sensitive fabless chip designers are in want of another leading-edge facility within the US to build their chips. Given their location, TSMC’s Taiwanese fabs are seen as security risk, and the US would prefer to be self-reliant rather than relying on a foreign partner – a concern that’s been magnified by the current coronavirus pandemic and the supply chain issues that has created.
 

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Lasers Write Data Into Glass
Microsoft’s Project Silica is one of several efforts underway to make it practical to store huge amounts of data in glass
29 May 2020


Magnetic tape and hard disk drives hold much of the world’s archival data. Compared with other memory and storage technologies, tape and disk drives cost less and are more reliable. They’re also nonvolatile, meaning they don’t require a constant power supply to preserve data. Cultural institutions, financial firms, government agencies, and film companies have relied on these technologies for decades, and will continue to do so far into the future.

But archivists may soon have another option—using an extremely fast laser to write data into a 2-millimeter-thick piece of glass, roughly the size of a Post-it note, where that information can remain essentially forever.

This experimental form of optical data storage was demonstrated in 2013 by researchers at the University of Southampton in England. Soon after, that group began working with engineers at Microsoft Research in an effort called Project Silica. Last November, Microsoft completed its first proof of concept by writing the 1978 film Superman on a single small piece of glass and retrieving it.

With this method, researchers could theoretically store up to 360 terabytes of data on a disc the size of a DVD. For comparison, Panasonic aims to someday fit 1 TB on conventional optical discs, while Seagate and Western Digital are shooting for 50- to 60-TB hard disk drives by 2026.


2020:



2001:

 

Winston

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Why does smoke from a soldering iron ALWAYS go towards your face???

 

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Open the pod bay door, HAL, or I'll rip your mind out, bit by bit!
The Real Technology Behind 2001’s HAL
May 11, 2018


Excerpt:

One of the most dramatic scenes in 2001 occurs near the end, where astronaut Dave Bowman manages to get back into the ship and systematically dismantles HAL’s higher mental functions, in effect giving HAL a lobotomy. As HAL’s circuits are disconnected, “he” recounts his creation in Urbana, Illinois. Why Urbana?

In 1968, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was at the center of research into what we now call “supercomputers.” There, Professor Daniel Slotnick was designing a computer that had not one but 64 separate processors, wired in parallel. It was designed to attack problems that ordinary, single-processor computers could not handle.

The “ILLIAC-IV” (Illinois Automatic Computer, # 4) was later installed at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, where it did aerodynamic calculations. Like the initial optimism for speech recognition, Slotnik’s ideas for a parallel computer did not bear fruit until many decades later, but in 1968 his work had gotten a lot of attention.

Finally, as Dave disconnects HAL’s circuits, the computer begins to sing a song: “Daisy Bell,” composed in 1892 by Harry Dacre and known to us all as “A Bicycle Built for Two.” Why that song? In 1961, a team of researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, programmed an IBM 7094 computer to sing the song. The program was the beginning of computer-synthesized speech and music. The Bell Labs scientists programmed the 7094 using punched cards.

You can hear their results:



ILLIAC IV


ILLIAC IV images:

 
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Winston

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Twisted light beams could boost telecommunications data rates
1 Jun 2020


Vortex lasers could help photons carry more data, a new study finds.

Modern optical telecommunications encode data in multiple aspects of light, such as its brightness and color. In order to store even more data in light, scientists are exploring other properties of light that have proven more difficult to control.

One promising feature of light under investigation has to do with momentum. Light has momentum, just like a physical item moving through space, even though it does not have mass. As such, when light shines on an object, it exerts a force. Whereas the linear momentum of light exerts a push in the direction that light is moving, angular momentum of light exerts torque.

A beam of light can possess two kinds of angular momentum. The spin angular momentum of a ray of light can make objects it shines on rotate in place, whereas its orbital angular momentum can make objects rotate around the center of the ray. A beam of light that carries orbital angular momentum resembles a vortex, moving through space with a spiraling pattern like a corkscrew. Whereas a conventional light beam is brightest at its center, vortex beams have ringlike shapes that are dark in the center, due to how some of the waves making up vortex beams can interfere with one another.

A potentially extraordinarily useful property of vortex beams is that they do not interfere with each other if they all possess different twisting patterns. This means a theoretically infinite number of vortex beams can get overlaid on top of each other to carry an unlimited number of data streams at the same time.

However, until now, all microchip-scale vortex lasers firing at telecommunications wavelengths were each limited to transmitting a single orbital angular momentum pattern. At the same time, existing detectors for vortex beams relied on complex filtering techniques using bulky components, which prevented them from being integrated on chips and made them incompatible with most practical optical telecommunications approaches.

Now scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and their colleagues have made breakthroughs with both vortex lasers and vortex beam detectors. They detailed their findings in two studies in the 15 May issue of the journal Science.

------------

Q & A: How does light have momentum without mass?


Q: I read your statement about how light has momentum despite the fact that it has no mass. My question to you is regarding gravity in black holes. It is said that light can’t escape the enormous gravitational force in black holes; however, is it not true that gravity is directly proportional to the object’s MASS and inversely proportional to the distance between the two objects (Newtonian, I think). If so, light has no mass. So how would light be effected by this phenomenon??? Thanks for your enthusiasm in physics.

Dan Sweeney - Dan Sweeney (age 16) Thayer Academy, Braintree MA, USA

A: The use of words can make a lot of confusion. Unfortunately, the word "mass" has been used in two different ways in physics. One was the way Einstein used it in E=mc2, where mass is really just the same thing as energy (E) but measured in different units. This is the same "m" that you multiply velocity by to find momentum (p), and thus is sometimes called the inertial mass. It's also the mass that provides the source of gravitational effects. Light has this "m" because it has energy. So it is indeed affected by gravity- not just in black holes but in all sorts of less extreme situations too. In fact, the first important confirmation of General Relativity came in 1919, when it was found that light from stars bends as it goes by the Sun.

The other way "mass" is often used, especially in recent years, is to mean "rest mass" or "invariant mass", which is sqrt(E2p2*c2)/c2. This is invariant because it doesn't change when you describe an object at rest or from the point of view of someone who says it's moving. Obviously that's a good type of "mass" to give when you want to make a list of masses of particles. For a light beam traveling in a single direction, E=pc, so this "m" is zero. There is no point of view from which the light is standing still!

However, once you consider light traveling in a variety of directions, the E's from the different parts just add up to give the total E but the vector p's don't. In fact the total p can be zero if there are beams traveling opposite ways. So for many purposes the older definition of m (the inertial mass) is more convenient than the invariant particle mass, since it's the inertial mass that's just the sum of the inertial masses of the parts. For light moving equally in all directions, like the light bouncing around inside a star, total p is zero, so both definitions just give m=E/c2.

Mike W.
 

Winston

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Maskless Photolithography Stepper for Homemade Chips

 

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B-29 Aircraft Receiver Scrap Parts Unit, Will It Still Work?

 

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Playing with Soviet Era Ferrite Core Memory Planes


About an incredibly significant advance in computer technology:

From Whirlwind to MITRE: The R&D Story of The SAGE Air Defense Computer (History of Computing)

 

Winston

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REPAIRING $55,000 OF VINTAGE CORE MEMORY
October 19, 2015





THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: TOURING THE AWESOME RANDOM ACCESS OF OLD
March 8, 2016

 

Winston

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A Better Way to Measure Progress in Semiconductors
It’s time to throw out the old Moore’s Law metric
21 Jul 2020


A few excerpts from a very long article:

Gargini, who is chairman of the IEEE International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS), proposed in April that the industry “return to reality” by adopting a three-number metric that combines contacted gate pitch (G), metal pitch (M), and, crucially for future chips, the number of layers, or tiers, of devices on the chip (T). (IRDS is the successor to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, or ITRS, a now-defunct, decades-long, industry-wide effort that forecast aspects of future nodes, so that the industry and its suppliers had a unified goal.)

“These three parameters are all you need to know to assess transistor density,” says Gargini, who also led ITRS.

The IRDS road map shows that the coming 5-nm chips have a contacted gate pitch of 48 nm, a metal pitch of 36nm, and a single tier—making the metric G48M36T1. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it does convey much more useful information than “5-nm node.”

As with the node nomenclature, the gate pitch and metal pitch values of this GMT metric will continue to diminish throughout the decade. However, they will do so more and more slowly, reaching an endpoint about 10 years from now, at current rates of progress. By that time, metal pitch will be nearing the limits of what extreme-ultraviolet lithography can resolve. And while the previous generation of lithography machines managed to cost-effectively push well past the perceived limits of their 193-nm wavelengths, nobody expects the same thing will happen with extreme ultraviolet.

“Around 2029, we reach the limit of what we can do with lithography,” says Gargini. After that, “the way forward is to stack.... That’s the only way to increase density that we have.”

That’s when the number of tiers (T) term will start to become important. Today’s advanced silicon CMOS is a single layer of transistors linked together into circuits by more than a dozen layers of metal interconnects. But if you could build two layers of transistors, you might nearly double the density of devices at a stroke.

For silicon CMOS, that’s still in the lab for now, but it shouldn’t be for long. For more than a decade, industrial researchers have been exploring ways to produce “monolithic 3D ICs,” chips where layers of transistors are built atop one another. It hasn’t been easy, because silicon-processing temperatures are usually so high that building one layer can damage another. Nevertheless, several industrial research efforts (notably at Belgian nanotech research firm Imec, France’s CEA-Leti, and Intel) are developing technology that would build the two types of transistors in CMOS logic—NMOS and PMOS—one on top of the other.

Upcoming nonsilicon technology could go 3D even sooner. For example, MIT professor Max Shulaker and his colleagues have been involved in the development of 3D chips that rely on tiers of carbon-nanotube transistors. Because you can process these devices at relatively low temperatures, you can build them up in multiple tiers much more easily than you can with silicon devices.

Others are working on logic or memory devices that can be built within the layers of metal interconnect above the silicon. These include micromechanical relays and transistors made from atom-thin semiconductors such as tungsten disulfide.




 

Winston

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A great channel which I've mentioned before:

 

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Univac 490


UNIVAC 490 Real-Time System


The UNIVAC 490 was a 30-bit word magnetic-core memory machine with 16K or 32K words; 4.8 microsecond cycle time made by UNIVAC. Seymour Cray designed this system before he left UNIVAC to join the early Control Data Corporation.

It was a commercial derivative of a computer Univac Federal Systems developed for the United States Navy. That system was the heart of the Naval Tactical Data System which pioneered the use of shipboard computers for air defense. The military version went by a variety of names: UNIVAC 1232,[1] AN/USQ-20, MIL-1206 and CP642.

Apparently at least 47 of these machines were made (serial numbers run from 101 to 147). Six were installed at NASA and played important roles in Gemini and the Apollo missions. In the Hollywood film Apollo 13, when the screens come to life after the onboard computer has been reactivated, those screens would have been responding to a Univac 490. The U490 had complete control of most or all of the data readout screens in Houston Mission Control.
 

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Vintage Computer Federation presentation - Whirlwind




 

Winston

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GitHub Arctic Code Vault
13 Nov 2019


WHY DID GITHUB SHIP ALL OUR SOFTWARE OFF TO THE ARCTIC?
29 Jul 2020


On February 2nd, GitHub took a snapshot of every public repository that met one of the following criteria:

Active since Nov 2019
250 or more stars
At least one star and new commits since Feb 2019

Then they traveled to Svalbard, found a decommissioned coal mine, and archived the code in deep storage underground
 

Winston

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A lesson in proper engineering management.

HP Origins - Hewlett Packard Documentary

 

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Thanks for the HP video Winston! I work for Agilent Technologies, which is essentially the old HP. The company was split a decade or so ago into HP and Agilent. Agilent kept all the measurement stuff (electronics, life-sciences and chemical etc) and HP went down the computer hardware/software route. It really is a great company to work for. The Electronic Measurement Group was spun off from Agilent to form Keysight Technologies in 2014. If you see Keysight test equipment these days, or Agilent for that matter, is is the same quality and philosophy under the hood.

I suspect Bill and David would have like the HP name to follow the test equipment, but it didn't work out that way.
 

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SSDs, how they work, and the performance differences of different types. Starts out too basic [ones and zeros], but quickly gets into excellent technical details:

 
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Winston

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Blinkenlights


Blinkenlights is a neologism for diagnostic lights usually on the front panels on old mainframe computers, minicomputers, many early microcomputers, and modern network hardware.

This term derives from the last word of the famous blackletter-Gothic sign in mangled mock German that once graced many computer rooms in the English-speaking world. One version read:

ACHTUNG!

ALLES TURISTEN UND NONTEKNISCHEN LOOKENSPEEPERS!

DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN! ODERWISE IST EASY TO SCHNAPPEN DER SPRINGENWERK, BLOWENFUSEN UND POPPENCORKEN MIT SPITZENSPARKEN.

IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.

ZO RELAXEN UND WATSCHEN DER BLINKENLICHTEN.

 

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High-Resolution Motor Drive
Here is a little something that a colleague of mine developed a couple of years back. This motor drive has an encoder that has a resolution and positioning accuracy of under 3.5mrad. There are a 1.8 million positions decoded around one rotation of the shaft. Putting that in perspective it would give one position every 24 yards around the equator. The control loop was developed in Matlab and ported to the FPGA which provides the hardware control loops, in the digital realm, for the system. It is high speed and will be within 10% of a requested move within 4ms, and settle to within one count within around 8ms.

The motor drive/control PCA is the top board, and is capable of driving two motors simultaneously. The bottom board is the system control board for the spectrometer.

One issue during development was twisting of the driveshaft during moves, due to high acceleration/deceleration.

FancyMotorResize.jpg


Unfortunately he retired about 18 months ago and passed away earlier this year (before COVID) :(. Really nice guy too.

My job is to now take this to nearly 15 million counts per revolution, without any software or firmware tweaks! Fairly straight-forward compared to the work that has gone into this already.
 

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Forgot to mention (and can't edit it :() about that motor drive in the above post : The motor is a three-phase brushless DC (BLDC) and the encoder is on the back end of the shaft and built into the housing. Shaft is direct drive, so there is no gearing involved in getting the fine resolution. Just some good control loops.

What you see on the top is a precision-mounted diffraction grating.
 

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That's a really nice canard controller, but it's a bit too large for most airframes. So, when you're already working on the hardware... ;)

Reinhard
 

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He built a 8-bit computer from scratch on breadboards.
He actually sells kits for this computer (and a few other things) on his web page. I bought the complete kit and spent a couple of months of evenings/Saturdays building the thing. It takes a lot of work and a bit of troubleshooting, but I think it was worth it!

I added some hardware to reset the micro-step counter to zero as soon as an instruction is completed; this saves a few clock cycles compared to his version. I also added an 8-bit ADC.
 

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John Kemker

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He actually sells kits for this computer (and a few other things) on his web page. I bought the complete kit and spent a couple of months of evenings/Saturdays building the thing. It takes a lot of work and a bit of troubleshooting, but I think it was worth it!

I added some hardware to reset the micro-step counter to zero as soon as an instruction is completed; this saves a few clock cycles compared to his version. I also added an 8-bit ADC.
Take a look at https://gigatron.io/

Unfortunately, the orginal Gigatron kits are out of stock and won't be available in the future. Fortunately, someone else has picked up the kit for manufacture/sale, but it doesn't include the nifty wood case.
 

Winston

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One issue during development was twisting of the driveshaft during moves, due to high acceleration/deceleration.
Wow! When THAT is a consideration, we're taking about extreme accuracy which this system apparently provided.
 
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