COOL RUNNINGS
PC Gamer US Edition|April 2021
What if advances in PC cooling change the PC beyond recognition?
Ian Evenden

PCs are ten, maybe even fifteen, years behind where they should be. That sounds a lot, but actually makes a lot of sense if you remember what PCs were like in 2005 (spoiler: The same as they are now). Bell’s Law, a companion to Moore’s Law, states that every decade, a new and lower-priced computer class forms that leads to the establishment of a new industry.

This hasn’t happened. The desktop PC wasn’t out-competed by the laptop, and the laptop wasn’t bullied out of its evolutionary niche by phones and tablets. We’ve got all three, at the same time, and the one you want always costs $1,000.

This month’s Tech Report was meant to be about the future of chip cooling, and it kind of still is, but it also touches on the implications of Bell’s Law, and how hot new computer architectures, supplied with new cooling systems, could be about to overturn the hierarchy of our PCs and devices.

We’ve been actively cooling our CPUs since the days of the 486 (introduced in 1989), and today’s multi-core monsters may have fans all over, with intakes and outflows on their cases, AIO or hard-piped liquid cooling radiators cooled by three fans, three more on the graphics card, and even a few on sensitive parts of the motherboard. The number and size have increased, but we’re still basically in the same place we were with Pentium II machines.

“We haven’t reinvented the computer, and that is a problem,” says Dr Bruno Michel of IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory, Switzerland. “We’re using an overaged technology, when what we should use is the newest technology which we have available.”

And that technology? “Mobile phone technology.” Michel studies smart system integration, and is inspired by nature. He’s trying to make computers more efficient through miniaturization, in order to reduce the carbon footprint of our processing. His end goal is to reach the kind of efficiency and computational density displayed by the human brain.

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