Is it time for clockless chips?

— 1:39 AM on November 12, 2001

Before TR's Comdex coverage commences, I would like to rewind the clock a bit and look at this story from October's Technology Review. Has the clock itself become the bottleneck to faster speeds?

But after a point, cranking up the clock speed becomes an exercise in diminishing returns. That's why a one-gigahertz chip doesn't run twice as fast as a 500-megahertz chip. The clock, through the work it must do to coordinate millions of transistors on a chip, generates its own overhead. The faster the clock, the greater the overhead becomes. The clock in a state-of-the-art microprocessor can consume up to 30 percent of the chip's computing capability, with that percentage increasing at an ever faster rate as clock speeds increase. It's as if a factory became overrun with stopwatch-wielding supervisors who improved efficiency but also took up more and more space held by workers and machines.
The solution may lie with an asynchronous design. To be sure, there is much, much more to this article, but the so-called 'megahertz myth' might become moot sooner than we think. And just how will you overclock a clock-less processor?
Tip: You can use the A/Z keys to walk threads.
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