Friday, February 22, 2008

Intel Corp., which makes the central processing units for most of the world’s computers, should be indicted for fraud.

Does this sound harsh? It isn’t. I have just read about Tukwila, Intel’s new quad-core chip, a super-brain for high-end servers, which Intel claims contains more than two billion transistors. Yes, two billion.

This is transparent nonsense. I first saw a transistor in 1957, and it was the size of an aspirin tablet, with three wires emanating from it like little legs. It looked like a tiny milking stool. You might — might — put four of them on a chip, with the help of a lot of glue and a hammer, but two billion? What are we smoking?

This has been a recurrent problem with Intel. Every year it claims to have put more transistors on a chip. Every year it says the things run faster. And, OK, in honesty I have to concede that each year the chips do more amazing stuff at a higher rate. I mean, they just do. But I don’t believe the part about the transistors.

Even the physiology doesn’t work. According to the British Broadcasting Corp., “The first chip to pack more than two billion transistors has been launched by silicon giant Intel.”

Sure. Have you ever seen a giant? They have great, thick fingers. No giant could possibly make a chip with that many transistors, any more than could a Maine moose. They might launch an aircraft carrier.

But a horde of minuscule transistors? No way.

All right, Fred, you say, the things work, but it isn’t about transistors. Well then, smart guy, how do you explain it?

I figure it’s spirits from a parallel universe.

Nothing else makes sense. Intel is selling haunted chips. We need a law.

I understand that everyone has been brainwashed, and believes this stuff about transistors. Let me ask you, then: How does anyone know the chip has two billion transistors? Have you counted them? Do you know anyone who has counted them? Anyone you trust? Ha!

Put it this way. Suppose that, with a high-powered microscope, you could count one transistor per second. That’s 60 per minute times 60 minutes per hour times 24 hours a day times 365 days a year.

That’s years to count two billion transistors, assuming that you don’t stop to sleep. But the chip has only been out for less than a year. Even Intel doesn’t know how many transistors Tukwila has. This is clear evidence of fraud.

Now, in a sense, it doesn’t matter, if you don’t mind having in your house a box full of spirits from a parallel universe. I mean, spirits need a home like everybody else, I suppose. I’ve used Intel processors for years, and never once have they put a hex on me. I think. They get the right answers. But don’t give me this transistor stuff.

And while we’re at it, the clock speed is said to be two gigahertz. That is, it does something or other a thousand million times a second. Granted, Intel is a private enterprise, and not the federal government, which does nothing a thousand million times a second. Still, can you believe this? What can you do even a thousand times a day?

No. Intel should be called into federal court, and forced to count those transistors in front of a judge, with a notary public standing by to certify the results.

If it can’t, then the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should arrest the corporation (how do you do that?) for illegal packaging of spirits.

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