Tuesday, 9 December 2014


A Supercomputer in Your Pocket

Did you know that your TomTom Go GPS is almost 250 times more powerful than the Apollo Guidance Computer, the device that navigated humans to the moon in 1966? Or that the ‘old’ iPhone 4 you’re thinking of trading in is more powerful than the Mars Curiosity Rover, the NASA robot that currently roams the red planet?

For this and more, we have Moore’s Law to thank. A simple observation that has held true for more than half a century, the law states simply that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double approximately every two years. This explains why computers - from games consoles to tablet computers - continually get smaller and more powerful. It explains why if the humble iPad 2 had been released in 1988, it would have been the most powerful computer in the entire world.

What’s more, the stunning capabilities of cutting-edge computers have become more affordable than ever. The Instagram video app is more powerful and more capable than a US$2 million video-editing suite was in 1990. The Google Drive app offers 15Gb of storage for free; in 1956, 3.75Mb (0.00375 Gb!) cost US$3200 to rent for one month.

Until now, this unfathomable rate of progress was made possible by a continual shrinking of the manufacturing process; silicon chips get smaller and more efficient as their computational powers continue to rise exponentially. However, we might be on the verge of hitting a physical limit - the size of the atom itself. When this happens, what next? Will progress continue in some exciting new form? Perhaps the smartphones in our pockets will one day be powered by a new technology entirely, possibly harnessing the stunning power of quantum phenomena?

It was these questions and more that prompted the team at Fonebank to create the following infographic: A Supercomputer In Your Pocket.

A Supercomputer In Your Pocket - An infographic by the team at Fonebank

[Source: Fonebank.]

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