A Defect-Tolerant Computer Architecture: Opportunities for Nanotechnology

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Science  12 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5370, pp. 1716-1721
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5370.1716

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Teramac is a massively parallel experimental computer built at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories to investigate a wide range of different computational architectures. This machine contains about 220,000 hardware defects, any one of which could prove fatal to a conventional computer, and yet it operated 100 times faster than a high-end single-processor workstation for some of its configurations. The defect-tolerant architecture of Teramac, which incorporates a high communication bandwith that enables it to easily route around defects, has significant implications for any future nanometer-scale computational paradigm. It may be feasible to chemically synthesize individual electronic components with less than a 100 percent yield, assemble them into systems with appreciable uncertainty in their connectivity, and still create a powerful and reliable data communications network. Future nanoscale computers may consist of extremely large-configuration memories that are programmed for specific tasks by a tutor that locates and tags the defects in the system.

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