Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/01/cpu_time_dilation/

Research reveals mislaid microprocessor megahertz

The more CPUs speed up, the more they slow down

By Percy Flage

Posted in Hardware, 1st April 2007 00:02 GMT

April Fool It's no wonder we need to upgrade our computers on a regular basis. Not only are chip companies regularly releasing ever-faster microprocessors, but new research has revealed that modern CPUs actually lose megahertz over time.

This startling conclusion follows a five-year research programme carried out by the Illyria University's Information Technology department.

"Five years ago, we activated a dozen new, freshly-purchased systems," said Computer Science Professor Asteio Artikolos. "Since then we have measured, on average, a 10-15 per cent reduction in the machines' clock speeds over that time. It's as if each machine's stock of megahertz were somehow leaking away.

"Each year, we have added new, faster machines. Not only have these seen a similar reduction over time in the number of processing cycles available each second, but the rate of decrease is greater than older, slower microprocessors."

So far Artikolos and his team have been unable to explain the phenomenon. One possibility is that the effect is related to the time dilation effect discovered by Einstein. Any moving body operates on a different temporal frame of reference than a static one, said Artikolis. As processors are clocked higher, so their transistors move more quickly, altering their apparent speed when measured by benchmarkers in a state frame of reference.

"It's certainly the case that many computer users notice a decrease in performance over time," Artikolos told Register Hardware. "A machine that seemed incredibly fast on the day of purchase seems torpid within three years. Traditionally, this was blamed on reduced free hard drive space and the increased memory requirements of software updates. Our research suggests a more fundamental problem, one that centres on the very way modern microprocessors operate."

Artikolos' findings pose an interesting question: where exactly are all these megahertz ending up? More research, he said, was needed.

Intel was unavailable for comment. AMD, however, claimed to be well aware of the problem and to be already designing processors capable of working beyond the limits of Einsteinian mathematics - with a negative temporal displacement facility built in.

"It's why all our processors appear two years ahead of the other guys' stuff," a spokesman said.