Apple’s move to Intel processors might have been a rude shock at first, but IBM had run (slowly) into a brick wall with its initially super-speedy PowerPC G5 chips. A promised 3GHz G5 never showed up, making Apple CEO Steve Jobs glow brighter than a Power Mac without its fan on. Apple has now shifted all its Macs except the Power Mac G5 onto Intel chips, which should run much faster and cooler than the old PowerPC. So imagine the colour of Steve’s cheeks and forehead now that IBM has announced it’s pushed a silicon-based microprocessor to speeds of 500GHz, 250 times faster than that found in a top-end Power Mac.
How did IBM achieve such a feat, without melting the chip (let alone the computer, desk or even the building and surrounding area), when it failed to warm a G5 to just 3GHz? Knowing that extreme video gamers chill their chips with refrigerated mineral oil, the IBM boffins used liquid helium to freeze their microprocessor to 451° below zero Fahrenheit. Nature’s coldest temperature, known as absolute zero, is just a few degrees lower, at minus 459.67°F. They were then able to push it to 500GHz. But IBM claimed that before freezing the chip, it had run at a more than impressive 350GHz at room temperature. The plan now is to blast a chilly chip to 1,000GHz (1 Terahertz), and Steve’s head into orbit.
Now, I’m sure that the lab conditions were somewhat different to that inside the Power Mac under my desk at home, but the gap between the impossible 3GHz and possible 350GHz beggars belief. Reality may be some way off, but I’m rather looking forward to the resumption of the Megahertz War. Maybe then we’ll all have to switch back to IBM, and wait patiently for a non-Universal version of Adobe Photoshop.