June18, 2014.


Sincethe invention of the first computers, demand for more efficient andfaster computers has created exponential growth in technologicaladvancement of processor technology. Efficiency in energy use,performance and cost has led to high demand of more efficientcomputer processors. Computer designers and manufacturer havecontinuously researched and developed new technological processors tosuit the changing applications in the society. As a result, processortechnology has exponentially grown, giving rise to super processorsthat have high performance, efficiency and speed. Technology andcompetition among processor manufacturers has increased moretechnological developments for processors. This research paperfocused on the growth of processor technology over the past fewdecades and the future expectations of technological advancement inthe processor technology. The study applied qualitative analysis onpast research studies and literature reviews in regard to processortechnology. It is evident that, there have been great technologicaldevelopments in designing new processors that have high performance,efficiency and low energy use. It is projected that future processorswill have ‘zero power’ usage and have high performanceefficiency.

Moderncomputer processors have metamorphosed into complex and sophisticatedsystems that far surpass the historical processors in design andcapacity. The world has undergone unprecedented evolution and growththrough technological changes that have been influenced byimprovement in technological research and need for more efficienttechnological products. The modern world has become infused withcomputer technologies in creating significant changes in the society.In the last decades computer technology has enhanced a formidabletechnological advancement in processor performance as part ofincreasing their efficiency and lowering cost(Ana et al. 2006).

Themodern computer provides users with greater performance, memory, disccapacity and efficiency. Advancement in computer technology andcomputer design has seen great changes in computer design to maximizeits performance through improving the instruction set designs,functional organizations, logic design and implementation. As digitaltechnologies continue to proliferate due to usage demand, growth incomputer efficiency will continue as the society pursues moreempowered, safer, happier and quality life. The need and usage ofcomputers with high processing efficiency continues to growsignificantly in many sectors of society. As such technologicalresearchers and computer scientists have a great stake in augmentingthe future of more efficient computer technology(Enticknap, 1998).

Thisreport reflects on the great technological advancement changes thathave been witnessed in the past in making computer processors and theprojected future technological development of processors. More focusis placed on the technological advancement on computer processors aspart of promoting healthier, enjoyable lifestyles, expand the digitalcreativity and enhance access of information that was previouslyinaccessible (Brown,2005).The society today, is more reliant on computer technologies insolving myriad of problems as such, efficient computers are neededfor more urgent and accurate processing of information to solvecritical issues as in hospitals, criminal tracking and scientificresearch (Hilbert,2011).The report is divided in parts one part covers the significantchanges in computing, how the changes have transformed the societyand the expected changes in the future of computer processors for thenext 20-30years.

Technologicalchanges on Computer processors in the past decades

Accordingto scholars, computer technology is likened to ‘technologicalsingularity’ this school of thought postulates that change in thecomputer technology is unpredictable. Scientists observe that,although there has been tremendous technological progress in thecomputing technology such changes have been limited by human mind(Vinge,1993).However, with an increased reliance on the efficiency of machines thefuture of computer technology will match or surpass that of the humanbrain. Since 1986 towards 2007, advancement in processor technologyhas doubled significantly after every 14 months (Vinge,1993).

Kurzweil,2005,the exponential expansion and growth of processors technology willsurpass the ‘technological singularity’ in the future expectedchanges in computer capacity will not correspond to the profoundexpansion of the human intelligence (Brown,2005).Exponential changes have led to computer technological revolutionthese changes encompass not only the quantitative nature of computertechnologies but in relation to the storage and processing power ofcomputers. Computer technology is embedded in the diversity of humanlife in relation to place, material and artifact form. Changes in theeconomic, social and political aspects of the society have spurredmore technological innovation (Enticknap,1998).

Theearly CPUs were large and custom designed in one computer this gaveway to modern CPU design and development to suit particularapplications. These changes extended to standardization andminiaturization of CPUs with the advent of digital devices (Vinge,1993).Initially, CPUs were tube based and required several switchingdevices this was later replaced with a modern design of complex CPUswith increased integrated technologies of circuit and transistorsboards (Enticknap,1998).It is not until 1960s that more advanced speed computers wereinvented by IMB (system/360) computer architecture that could run onthe same program with high performance and speed(Marsh, 1979).

Significantchanges in technological development were enhanced by changes intransistors increased efficiency of processors in relation toreliability and speed. Great changes were witnessed in the 1970s withthe invention of microprocessors. The invention of themicroprocessors Intel 4004 and Intel 8080, enhanced more changes inthe instructions set designs that were compatible withmicroprocessors (Marsh,1979).The previous generations of CPUs were designed using severalintegrated circuits (ICs) on more circuit boards while the modernmicroprocessors have less ICs two or less. The overall effect hasbeen faster switching time (Hilbert,2011).

However,recent technological advancement has increased the need for smallertransistors in the IC thereby necessitating the need for moretransistors in single CPU. Great technological development of modernCPUs could be attributed to Moore’s law who argued that, based onthe historical development of computing hardware, the number oftransistors in dense integrated computer circuit doubles inestimation after every two years (citation). Assessing the historicaldevelopment of computer processors, Moore’s theory is accuratemodern computers have more transistors integrated in the circuitboard of the processor (Brown,2005).

Inthe past 30 years, the design and development of CPU have changedsignificantly. Great technological changes have been done in theprevious CPU generations to increase the processing capacity, timeand data storage. Unlike the previous generation of processors, therehave been great changes in improving the clock rates as thecomplexity of modern computers continues. Modern computers are nowequipped with multiple identical clocks that prevent the processorfrom malfunctioning (Enticknap,1998).

Inaddition, technological changes have been made to enhance parallelcomputing previous generation of processors only had superscalarCPUs. Superscalar processors were inefficient only one instructioncould have been executed at a time leading to computer ‘hanging.’The problem has been reduced through the invention of more efficientprocessors with more transistors been increased to improve commandexecution by the CPUs (Vinge,1993).These changes led to the development of a variety of processordesigns that enhance better processor performance. These designtechniques involve ‘Instructional level parallelism’ (ILI) and‘Thread Level Parallelism’ (TLP) the function of the processorto execute multiple programs simultaneously and at a faster rate(Hilbert, 2011).

Underthe instructional level computing, the processors were developed insuch a way that they would execute one instruction at a time. Thiscreated ‘data dependency conflict’ in which the processors couldnot execute commands beyond the instructional level computing. Inorder to improve on this problem, further development led toinstructional pipelining of the processors to enable them executesmultiple instructions (Nathan,2006).However, these processors with superscalar instructions were found tobe ineffective due to scheduling stalls that affected theirperformance. Processors in this category were Intel P5 Pentium and P6that formed the modern processors in general purpose CPUs developedover the last decades. In the subsequent years, great technologicalchanges have led to designing more superscalar high instructions percycle (IPC) computers. More changes have led to shifting CPUshardware to software interface (ISA). The goal of these changes wasto minimize the load work performed by the CPU by boosting theinstructional level performance (ILP) which in turn reduced thecomplexity of processor designs(Kaizad, 2011).

Overtime,in the 1990s, further development was done to improve the performanceof the processors in executing various programs, ‘thread levelparallelism.’ This technology aimed at designing computerprocessors that have multiprocessors. Under this technology that wasinitially known as ‘symmetric multiprocessing (SMP), processors hadan additional device to maintain the processor memory (Vinge,1993).In this way, the processors were designed to cooperate in operatingsimilar programs (Marsh,1979).The scheme was introduced in the 1990s under the non-uniform memoryaccess (NUMA)(Marsh, 1979).During these changes only limited computers processors hadsymmetrical multiprocessing, majority of the rest were designed withNUMA CPUs had thousands of processors (Hilbert,2011).

Previously,multiprocessing was built on multiple CPU boards to enhance moreinterconnection between the processors. Later, this changed tomulti-core-processor in which the processors and interconnect weremade on a single silicon chip. Later, technological advancement infine grain parallelism (multi-threading, MT) changed the elements ofthe CPUs to enhance sharing of memory systems among multiple threads(Kaizad, 2011).The approach was more cost effective than its predecessor technologyof multiprocessing. Unlike in the multiprocessing technology (MP), in multi-threading (MT) technology only limited elements within theCPU were used to support MT. The memory system and processing unitswere shared among multithread hence the processors were morecompatible with software’s than those processors using themultiprocessing technology. As such, multithreading designs wereinstalled in CPUs through technologies such as UltraSPARC andsimultaneous multithreading. Under these technologies, the processorsutilized instructions of multiple threads in CPU clock cycles(Brown, 2005).

Afterseveral technological changes in the past few decades, more focus inCPU designs and development has been placed on developing processorsthat have high Instructional Level Performance, ILP throughtechnologies such as caching, pipelining, super-scaling, etc. Theresults of these technological trends have culminated to developmentof large and powerful CPUs such as Intel Pentium 4. Great changes andtechnological research has been taking place to increase theperformance and capacity of the modern CPU (Marsh,1979).

However,by 2000s, this advancement has been slowed by a number of technicalissues. One is that, there has been a growing disparity between theILP technique, memory frequencies, and escalating power consumptionby the CPU due to complex ILP technologies. In order to address theseproblems, CPU designers incorporated the ideas of commercialcomputing like transaction processing that uses various programs toimprove on the performance of the earlier version of CPUs (Vinge,1993).The resultant effect has been more design development in CPUs as hasbeen witnessed through the production of multiple and dual core chiplevels multiprocessing (CMP). In regard to this recent technologicaladvancement on CPUs, several devices have been developed Athlon64x2, x86-64 Opteron, IBM POWER4, SPARC UltraSPARC T1 and POWER5.Others recent CPUs include triple core Xbox 360 and the PS3 7coremicroprocessor video game CPUs.

Moretechnological advancement led to the development of vector processorsthat enhance data parallelism this ushered in the era ofsupercomputers as envisioned by Moore’s (Nathan,2006).This technology first appeared in the 1970s and has progressivelybeen developed over the past decades (Enticknap,1998).Unlike the multi-scalar technology CPUs which rely on single data forcommand execution, the vector processors deal with multiple datainstructions (Kurzweil,2005).The motivation behind development of these vector processors wasdriven by the need to optimize tasks that required sets of datamultimedia applications such as video, engineering and otherscientific tasks. The vector processors are more efficient inperforming operations on a large set of data using one instructionunlike the scalar CPU that requires multiple instructions to process,fetch, decode and execute large set of data (Vinge,1993).

Previousversions of vector CPUs were used in scientific researches andcryptographic applications. However, as the need for multi-tasksoperations and shift to digital services in such areas as multimediavector processors have become essential. In this case, earlier CPUversions like the Multimedia Acceleration extensions (MAX) and theIntel’s MMX have been progressively remade to suite the modern SIMDspecifications of CPUs like the Intel’s SSE and the Altivec CPUs(Zygmont,2003).In all these technological advancement the aim has been increasingthe processing performance, power consumption and data size. Recentversions have multi-core processors in which more individualprocessors are integrated into one circuit (Hilbert,2011).It is argued that, a duo core processor would do twice as many taskscompared to a single core processor however, this is not the casemulti-core processors increases workload performed handled by the CPUwhich in turn overwhelms it leading to low performance (Vinge,1993).

Thefuture of Processors

AsMoore envisioned in his law of technology that the number oftransistors infused on a single integrated circuit doubles afterevery two years, the future of processor technology appears moreadvanced. The design in efficiency and performance of modern daydigital devices could be analyzed from the perspective of Moore’sLaw. There is fierce competition from the computer processordesigners and manufacturers which continues to develop the processordesigns. The processor is the most vital part of a computer, andimmense technological development has seen the production of Inteland AMD.

Recenttechnology has reduced the size of processors to microprocessors thathave small logical circuit’s chips these chips have millions oftransistors on a single die. The chips perform numerous functionssuch as computations and preparing them in different areas.Microprocessors have low power consumption and high efficiencythereby making them more attractive in the modern world (Zygmont,2003).

Greatdevelopment continues to reduce the size of the microprocessors aswell as improving on their performance efficiency. Thesetechnological changes have led to the production of modern portabledigital gadgets this has been enhanced by the production ofmicroprocessors like AMD, Intel Atom, Champlain, Phenom and Athlon.Intel has contributed significantly in the technological advancementof computer processors. Each year the Intel produces new products ofprocessors in 2007, Intel released several versions of two core duoprocessors (Kurzweil,2005).

Demandfor more advanced processors with microchips rises each day this isbecause microprocessors are more efficient and have high demand inthe third world countries. Another factor that could be attributed tothe rising demand of microchip processors is mainly due to risingawareness in regard to the new models of processors. As such,manufacturers are compelled to keep in track with the rising demandfor more efficient processors. Recent technological developments inprocessor technology could be attributed to efforts aimed atdesigning multi-core processors in future (Hilbert,2011).

Thegreat advancement in processor technology has been possible due togreat technological research carried over years. Today, manyprocessor manufacturers are able to integrate millions of transistorsin a single die system unlike in the past for instance, the mergingof quad processors in the recent development has increasedefficiencies of processors (Zygmont,2003).Today’s processors have low power consumption, high performance,high speed and a high degree of internet connectivity.

Inaddition, the ability of modern processors to multitask due tomulti-threading support has enabled the processors to have morecompatibility with software products through the (Simultaneousmultiple Threading, SMT). There is continued unprecedented demand formicroprocessors in business and domestic use. These rising demandshave led Intel to design processors like atom, Xeon Quad and XeonEight. The trend in more technological development of processorscontinues in the future processor is the most important organ incomputers, and no computer efficiency could be enhanced withoutimproving the efficiency of the processor (Nathan,2006).

Thefuture of processor production could be related to ‘technologicalsingularity’ espoused by Vernor Vinge, who observed that, ‘theever accelerating progress in technology and changing modes of humanlife, will result to artificial intelligence where computers willact as the human brain,’ (Vinge,1993).Assessing the rate at which processor technology has accelerated inthe past few decades, this theory could be correct. In the next 20-30years, processor technology will attain ‘intelligence explosion’with supercomputers having processor capacity that surpass cognitiveabilities of the human mind (Bohr,2012).The increased reliance on powerful computers and other technologieswill make it possible for production of computers that have moreintelligence than that of the man(Kurzweil, 2005).According to Ray Kurzweil in his ‘law of accelerating returns,’‘the speed of computing technology will increase and there will beno distinction between human and machine’ (Zygmont,2003).

Accordingto recent technological research at Intel in 2011, future processorswill significantly have much lower energy consumption. In thisrespect, future processors could rely on solar power to run computertasks. The study by Intel of low voltage processors could eventuallylead to the development of ‘zero-power’ processors that willdepend solely on solar energy. Energy consumption and efficiency hasbeen a concern for many processor manufacturers (Enticknap,1998).However, with more technological research, the production ofprocessors will have maximum efficiency and performance compared topresent day processors.

Thechallenge with today’s processor designers is that they have notbeen able to balance efficiency and performance. Nonetheless, thetechnological advancement in processor technology looks promising.Future processors will be small in size, high speed, ‘zero-power’consumption, high efficiency and performance(Zygmont, 2003).According to Kurzweil 2011, ‘singularity will occur by 2045, wherethe human mind will be reversed computers will be capable of humanlevel intelligence’ (Bohr,2012).


Theneed and usage of computers with high processing efficiency continuesto grow significantly in many sectors of society. The society is morereliant on computer technologies in solving myriad of problems. Theseneeds have enhanced more technological development in the productionof efficient processors. The great advancement in processortechnology has been possible due to great technological researchcarried over years. Today, many processor manufacturers are able tointegrate millions of transistors in a single die system unlike inthe past. In the next 20-30 years, processor technology will attain‘intelligence explosion’ with supercomputers having processorcapacity that surpass cognitive abilities of the human mind. Theincreased reliance on powerful computers and other technologies willmake it possible for production of computers that have moreintelligence than that of the man.


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Memorycapacity trend of emerging nonvolatile memories