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Sun Micro in quest of clockless CPU

Async logic going mainstream

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Sun Microsystems is actively pursuing development of a CPU without a clock, based instead on asynchronous logic, according to a story in Monday's New York Times.

"The clock is the microelectronic crystal that beats at the heart of every microprocessor chip, orchestrating the synchronous dance of electrons that course through the hundreds of millions of wires and transistors of a modern computer," the Times' John Markoff writes, displaying his monumental literary pretensions, the likes of which are rarely encountered outside the world of overpriced restaurant menus, greeting-card 'poetry' and tourist brochures.

At any rate, after reading through all the writerly extravagance, we gather that Sun engineer Ivan Sutherland and a team of six colleagues will reveal developments in practical applications of async logic beginning 11 March at the Async2001 conference in Salt Lake City.

If the project is successful, the advantages would include greatly reduced power consumption and a dramatic computing speed increase, because -- well, let Markoff say it -- because the "tyrannical clock....forces all of the millions of the circuits on a chip to march in unison."

Readers interested in a notably less goopy and considerably deeper explanation of the virtues of async logic and its many technical challenges are urged to check out the Manchester University AMULET project Web Site. ®

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