No energy crisis if cars keep pace with computers

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Washington, June 20 : Only a litre of fuel would be able to serve the UK for a year and oil reserves would last the expected lifetime of the solar system, provided the innovations in car are at par with those in computers, said a leading computer scientist.

In his lecture entitled 'The Relentless March of the Microchip', Professor Steve Furber CBE, ICL Professor of Computer Engineering at The University of Manchester, said that computers are now 50 billion times more energy-efficient than the 'Baby', which weighed roughly one tonne and took up a whole room.

The 'Baby' or Small Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), is the forerunner of all modern computers and was developed at The University of Manchester 60 years ago in 1948.

Talking about one of the Grand Challenges for the next two decades of computing research, he pointed out that despite scientists not up-to-date with many of the principles of operation of the complex human brain, computers are becoming powerful enough to model significant components of brain function.

However, he also suggested that perhaps the understanding that has so far eluded scientists is now within their grasp.

"Biological systems demonstrate many of the properties we aspire to incorporate into our engineered technology, so perhaps that suggests a possible source of ideas that we could seek to incorporate into future novel computation systems," said Professor Furber, speaking ahead of the lecture.

He added: "Current research at Manchester into the development of the 'Brain Box' computer is a contribution to the computing Grand Challenge of 'Understanding the Architecture of Brain and Mind', and will provide a platform for the investigation of these important issues that face the microchip industry in the near future."

Furber will deliver the inaugural Kilburn Lecture to mark Digital 60 Day - the 60th anniversary of The Baby computer, designed and built at The University of Manchester in 1948.

Digital 60 Day marks the 60th anniversary the birth of the 'Baby' or Small Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM. 'The Baby' successfully executed its first program in Manchester on 21 June 1948. That program was written by the late Tom Kilburn who designed and built the machine at The University of Manchester with the late Freddie Williams.

Furber is the head of the SpiNNaker project at The University of Manchester, which aims to build a massively-parallel chip multiprocessor system for modelling large systems of spiking neurons in real time.

ANI

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