This last chapter takes us to the present day. Custom chips can still be quite vexing to build. Innovations such as extreme ultraviolet lithography have helped somewhat with the wavelength of light problem. But the cost of this technology limits its use, and the most advanced processes have their own set of counter-intuitive challenges.
Something else has happened, however, that is changing the landscape. It’s a series of events. Up to about 10 years ago, chips defined the market and software was written to run on those chips. Over the past 10 years that has started to invert. More and more, software is defining markets and chips are designed to run the software. This is how almost every artificial intelligence (AI) feature works, from the self-driving car to Amazon Alexa. These markets are quite large as well. That certainly helps defray design costs. So does an infusion of many new and well-funded companies into the chip business. Consider that Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook didn’t design chips 10 years ago. Today, they dominate the chip landscape. I touched on some of this in my prior blog post.
The methods being used to deliver technology are also evolving. Beyond a new, smaller, faster, and lower power chip, there are now multi-die design strategies as well as some very innovative ways to marry software and chips.
I don’t know when Chapter Four will end, but I know there are exciting times ahead. There is so much more to say about these developments. And we have more to say, and soon. So, keep watching.
For now, I’ll leave you with the simple observation that the universe is cyclic in nature, so this was all quite predictable.