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Essential Algorithms: A Practical Approach to Computer Algorithms by Rod Stephens

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CHAPTER 18

Distributed Algorithms

In a paper published in 1965, Gordon E. Moore noticed that the number of transistors on integrated circuits roughly doubled every two years between the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958 and 1965. From that observation, he predicted that the trend would continue for at least another 10 years. This prediction, which is now known as Moore's Law, has proven amazingly accurate for the last 50 years, but the end may be in sight.

The size of the objects that manufacturers can put on a chip is reaching the limits of the current technology. Even if manufacturers find a way to put even more on a chip (they're quite clever, so it's certainly possible), eventually transistors will reach quantum sizes where the physics becomes so weird that current techniques will fail. Quantum computing may be able to take advantage of some of those effects to create amazing new computers, but it seems likely that Moore's Law won't hold forever.

One way to increase computing power without increasing the number of transistors on a chip is to use more than one processor at the same time. Most computers for sale today contain more than one central processing unit (CPU). Often they contain multiple cores—multiple CPUs on a single chip. Clever operating systems may be able to get some use out of extra cores, and a good compiler may be able to recognize parts of a program that can be executed in parallel and run them on multiple cores. To really get the most out of multiple ...

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