Recent Developments In
The development of integrated
circuits has revolutionized the fields of communications,
information handling, and computing. Integrated circuits reduce the
size of devices and lower manufacturing and system costs, while at
the same time providing high speed and increased reliability.
Digital watches, hand-held computers, and electronic games are
systems based on microprocessors.
Other developments include the digitalization of audio signals,
where the frequency and amplitude of an audio signal are coded
digitally by appropriate sampling techniques, that is, techniques
for measuring the amplitude of the signal at very short intervals.
Digitally recorded music shows a fidelity that is not possible
using direct-recording methods.
Digital playback devices of this nature have already entered the
home market. Digital storage could also form the basis of home
video systems and may significantly alter library storage systems,
because much more information can be stored on a disk for replay on
a television screen than can be contained in a book.
Medical electronics has progressed from computerized axial
tomography, or the use of CAT or CT scanners (see X Ray), to
systems that can discriminate more and more of the organs of the
human body. Devices that can view blood vessels and the respiratory
system have been developed as well. Ultrahigh definition television
also promises to substitute for many photographic processes,
because it eliminates the need for silver.
Today's research to increase the speed and capacity of computers
concentrates mainly on the improvement of integrated circuit
technology and the development of even faster switching
Very-large-scale integrated (VLSI) circuits that contain several
hundred thousand components on a single chip have been developed.
Very-high-speed computers are being developed in which
semiconductors may be replaced by superconducting circuits using
Josephson junctions and operating at temperatures near absolute
Future Developments In Computer
In 1965 semiconductor pioneer Gordon
Moore predicted that the number of transistors contained on a
computer chip would double every year. This is now known as Moore's
Law, and it has proven to be somewhat accurate. The number of
transistors and the computational speed of microprocessors
currently doubles approximately every 18 months. Components
continue to shrink in size and are becoming faster, cheaper, and
With their increasing power and versatility, computers simplify
day-to-day life. Unfortunately, as computer use becomes more
widespread, so do the opportunities for misuse. Computer
hackers-people who illegally gain access to computer systems-often
violate privacy and can tamper with or destroy records. Programs
called viruses or worms can replicate and spread from computer to
computer, erasing information or causing computer malfunctions.
Other individuals have used computers to electronically embezzle
funds and alter credit histories. New ethical issues also have
arisen, such as how to regulate material on the Internet and the
World Wide Web. Individuals, companies, and governments are working
to solve these problems by developing better computer security and
enacting regulatory legislation.
Computers will become more advanced and they will also become
easier to use. Reliable speech recognition will make the operation
of a computer easier. Virtual reality, the technology of
interacting with a computer using all of the human senses, will
also contribute to better human and computer interfaces. Standards
for virtual-reality program languages, called Virtual Reality
Modeling language (VRML), currently are being developed for the
World Wide Web.
Breakthroughs occurred in the area
of quantum computing in the late 1990s. Quantum computers under
development use components of a chloroform molecule (a combination
of chlorine and hydrogen atoms) and a variation of a medical
procedure called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compute at a
molecular level. Scientists used a branch of physics called quantum
mechanics, which describes the activity of subatomic particles
(particles that make up atoms), as the basis for quantum computing.
Quantum computers may one day be thousands to millions of times
faster than current computers, because they take advantage of the
laws that govern the behavior of subatomic particles. These laws
allow quantum computers to examine all possible answers to a query
at one time. Future uses of quantum computers could include code
breaking and large database queries.
Communications between computer
users and networks will benefit from new technologies such as
broadband communication systems that can carry significantly more
data and carry it faster, to and from the vast interconnected
databases that continue to grow in number and type.