Unusual silicon-on-sapphire chip unearthed in ancient HP floppy disk drive

Unusual silicon-on-sapphire chip unearthed in ancient HP floppy disk drive

technology By Dec 22, 2023 No Comments

With working from home, attending online classes, and engaging in streaming now the norm, the are a necessity.

If you’re still using a basic webcam or the one that’s built in your laptop, you may want to finally make an upgrade so that you can enjoy better video quality and more helpful features.

Whether you want the absolute best webcam available, a webcam for a specific purpose, or a webcam on a budget, below are our recommendations.

Webcams come in all shapes and sizes, and they offer different features according to their price and purpose.

Among the things that you need to consider when choosing a webcam to buy include resolution, built-in microphones, support for facial recognition technology, automatic low-light correction, and privacy shutters.

What you need from your webcam will largely depend on how you’ll use it most often, so select the option with the features that you think you’ll be able to maximize.

There’s a wide range of prices for webcams, so you can get one for a low price, or one with all of the features but at a relatively higher cost.

You’ll want to determine how much you’re willing to pay for your new webcam, and you should maximize your budget so that you can get the best possible option that you can afford.

For our recommendations of the best webcams, we went with some of the most trusted brands in the business because we place a premium on reliability and the latest technology that these companies provide.

We also selected webcams with high ratings, but since they’re well-reviewed, that means stocks may sell out at any moment.

If you’re sold on any of these webcams, you need to complete your transaction as soon as possible.

The main selling point of the is that it supports 4K resolution, which means you’ll look your absolute best with sharp details and vivid colors.

The webcam also offers automatic light adjustments, especially during low-light and backlit situations, and built-in omnidirectional microphones with technology.

The Logitech Brio may be integrated with the Windows Hello facial recognition system, and it also comes with a privacy shade that you can flip down to cover the lens when it’s not in use.

The Logitech C920S Pro is a Full HD webcam with dual microphones that capture natural stereo audio while filtering our background noise, which makes it perfect for joining online meetings through teleconferencing apps such as and .

You can use the Logitech C920S Pro to record videos for purposes such as demos and showcases, and it also works in low-light situations so you don’t need to edit the footage to increase brightness.

The Logitech C920S Pro also comes with a privacy shutter for your peace of mind against hackers.

If you want to create streaming content for any platform, the Elgato Facecam is your best bet.

With Full HD resolution, the Sony STARVIS CMOS sensor that’s optimized for indoor use, and an advanced image engine that creates uncompressed video without artifacts, you’ll be able to stream with top-quality video.

The Elgato Facecam also features a custom heat sink that will prevent overheating even after several hours of streaming, and the settings that you can access on the brand’s Camera Hub software makes it very easy to create the perfect shot.

For those who prefer working or streaming in the dark, you should think about getting the Razer Kiyo.

The brightness of the built-in 5600K ring light surrounding the webcam’s Full HD lens may be adjusted by rotating its bezel, so you’ll always get the perfect lighting.

It’s an excellent choice for influencers who need the illumination to showcase product unboxings, technical instructions, and similar streams, and once you’re down with it, the compact folding design of the Razer Kiyo means you can easily store it until the next time you need it.

Do you just need a simple webcam, but you want to make the most out of your tight budget?

You should go for the Logitech C270, which offers HD resolution for video calls and recording, a built-in microphone with noise-reducing technology, and light correction capabilities.

Despite its low price, it works amazingly well with teleconferencing apps such as , and it comes with a secure mounting clip that securely attaches to your monitor or laptop.

Man writing lines of code on desktop computer Unlocking new markets of all types with technology – even when it challenges the status quo and is not the easy path forward – will rejuvenate the economy.

In addition, tech market innovations will help manage environmental, social, and governance challenges.

Let’s look at some examples.

Take artificial intelligence, for instance: the algorithms behind deep fake technology, capable of misleading entire populations and disrupting democracy, can also be used to diagnose diseases such as cancer at an early stage, leading to better health outcomes.

The expansion of the internet of things (IoT) could put jobs and personal data at risk, but if rolled out responsibly, it can revolutionize peoples’ access to services regarding health, safety, finances, and daily planning.

Powerful gene-editing tools could be used to engineer viruses capable of wiping out entire populations, but can equally be harnessed to save endangered species and eliminate debilitating hereditary diseases.

Many tech sectors are seeing job growth in various areas.

The space economy, for example, is experiencing job growth in various areas.

Today, the number of jobs in the space sector is estimated to be around 400,000, but that number is forecast to skyrocket to 1.5 million jobs in the future.

Workers are needed in accounting, marketing, design, IT, manufacturing, and STEM.

Launch services in the United States alone rely on advanced manufacturing, which is the source of 40% of all commercial launches, more than any other country in the world.

That brings more than $2 billion per year in revenues to US manufacturing industries.

This illustrates the importance of tech innovations to help unlock new market, as well as create more diversity in the workplace.

Technology can support diversity and inclusion efforts through training and awareness programs.

Business can use virtual training and awareness programs to educate employees about diversity and inclusion, promoting a more inclusive workplace culture.

Further, companies looking to proactively recruit employees from Generations Y and Z gain an edge on competitors.

These next gen employees are diverse in culture and mentality, which brings fresh thinking and skills to the workplace.

In addition to embracing new technologies and software that help businesses acquire and keep new customers, millennials and Gen Zs are often at the heart of designing and implementing new tech strategies and systems.

A robot’s hand typing on a keyboard This is a really interesting question, and honestly I think that everyone is needing to update their predictions on a regular basis—for example, I would have answered this question somewhat differently a month ago.

At present, however, I have three main thoughts in response: (1) like AI adoption in the past, I expect the surrounding ChatGPT to far exceed the it is actually used in businesses; (2) while only time will tell, it does appear that AI use is recently trending upward at a much quicker rate than in recent years; and (3) contrary to what we have been finding in past years, the most recent measures of AI use seem to imply a relatively large usage rate among very small firms.

If I had only one sentence to respond to this prompt, I would likely say, “It will happen at lower levels than you’re probably expecting.”

This opinion comes largely from my own experience with nationally representative data on firm-level AI use in recent years.

The Census Bureau has begun administering surveys on AI and other advanced technology use among firms beginning in 2018.

I have coauthored multiple research papers using the Annual Business Survey (ABS), which contains both direct and indirect measures (depending on the year) of AI use among businesses.

The 2019 ABS asked firms directly whether they used any AI in their production processes.

The result: only 3.2% of firms reported using AI (see Table 1 ).

We used the 2018 ABS (which has an even larger representative sample) to generate an even more inclusive estimate of AI use and found a rate of 5.8% (see Figure 1 ).

It’s a more generous estimate because we could only AI use based on reported use of technologies that are generally AI intensive but don’t necessarily require AI.

Of course, it is also true that these rates were both measured well before the release of ChatGPT in 2022, but these are relevant because there was still a significant “hype” associated with AI at the time.

For example, surveys by and reported AI usage rates from 25% to 50%—orders of magnitude larger than the nationally representative numbers from the ABS.

Of course, surveys like these don’t have the random selection or sample sizes necessary to realistically estimate a national average like the ABS does.

So, what about more recent measures of AI since the release of ChatGPT?

I’ll re-emphasize my previous point by highlighting the gap between reality and the “hype.”

If you simply Google something like “how many businesses us ChatGPT?”, you’ll likely pull quick results like this that finds that 49%(!) of companies currently use ChatGPT (which would imply that an even higher share of businesses are using at least some form of AI).

In contrast, the Census Bureau recently introduced an AI question to its .

This survey is administered every two weeks and asks firms about activity over the previous two weeks (i.e., trends) and planned activity over the next six months (i.e., outlook).

BTOS doesn’t benefit in the same way as the ABS from extremely large sample sizes and response rates, but it is nonetheless representative of the universe of U.S. employer businesses across important characteristics like size, industry, and geography.

Up to this point in time, BTOS has received 6 rounds of responses asking about AI use in firms.

The first round, whose collection ended 9/24/23 (roughly 10 months since the release of ChatGPT), yielded an estimated usage rate of 3.7%—much closer to the ABS’s 3.2% than to ResumeBuilder’s 49%.

Estimates from the next three collection periods (6 weeks) were all between 3.7% and 3.9%.

At the same time, 6.3%–6.5% of businesses reported expectations to use AI during the following 6 months, which would be a sizeable jump in a short amount of time (i.e., around 70% growth in AI use over 6 months).

I initially chalked this up to BTOS’s projected rates simply picking up more of the hype.

However, the last two BTOS collections yielded current AI usage estimates of 4.4% and 4.6%, respectively.

To put that into context, those usage rates represent around 20%–25% growth in reported AI use over roughly 2 months (i.e., since the initial collection period).

That amount of growth—if sustained—could put the future AI usage rate on schedule to hit right around the original “outlook” rate of 6.3% after 6 months.

Because of these latest results, I’m somewhat more likely to believe that AI use (led by ChatGPT) may really begin picking up among firms.

However, it remains to be seen whether this trend will persist or if it’s mostly noise.

Finally, it appears that the most recent (post-ChatGPT) measures of AI use show a larger share of smaller firms reporting use in their business processes.

This is contrary to the robust patterns of AI use with respect to firm size measured in the ABS.

In both 2018 and 2019, firm size is a very strong predictor of whether a business uses AI, showing basically a monotonic relationship with size (i.e., larger firms are consistently more likely to use AI than smaller firms).

This figure shows the average AI use reported in BTOS by various firm size classes.

What I find to be the most interesting pattern in the BTOS data so far is the more U-shaped (rather than strictly increasing) pattern of AI use with respect to firm size.

That is, the largest firm size classes report the highest rates of using—and planning to use—AI.

Again, time alone will tell—and a look at the microdata will be necessary to verify that this size relationship holds within sector—but this pattern could very well be the new norm given the easy accessibility of ChatGPT-like tools to small businesses.

Provided by Zachary Kroff

In a nutshell: Ken Shirriff is an IC reverse engineering enthusiast who enjoys restoring vintage computers and devices.

While repairing an eight-inch HP floppy drive, the computer historian discovered an obsolete manufacturing technology that was almost lost to time.

The old floppy drive had a broken interface chip, Shirriff explained on his blog.

He decided to decap it and took photos.

The chip has an unusual substrate, consisting of a sapphire base with silicon elements and metal wiring on top.

The “silicon-on-sapphire” chip is partly transparent, Shirriff notes, and was designed to function as an interface between HP’s interface bus (HP-IB) and the Z80 processor, which acts as the central hub in the floppy drive controller.

The silicon-on-sapphire chip is a PHI (Processor-to-HP-IB Interface) component, used in various HP products to manage the bus protocol and buffered data between the interface bus and a device’s microprocessor.

The sapphire substrate imparts the chip with unique capabilities, which Shirriff elaborates on in his post.

Unlike a regular integrated circuit, the transistors on the chip are completely isolated because the sapphire substrate serves as an insulator.

This means there is reduced capacitance between transistors, improving performance and providing protection against radiation or low-impedance short circuits.

Thanks to its natural hardening capabilities against radiation, the silicon-on-sapphire configuration had been used since 1963 or earlier, including in spacecraft like the Galileo probe.

Shirriff compared the PHI chip to other processors from the 70s, which were made from both silicon-on-sapphire and silicon-only substrates.

HP’s MC2 16-bit processor from 1977 utilized silicon-on-sapphire technology and had 10,000 transistors, according to the historian, running at 8 megahertz on just 350 mW of power.

In comparison, the Intel 8086 16-bit CPU from 1978 was implemented on a “regular” silicon substrate using NMOS instead of the CMOS manufacturing process.

The chip had 29,000 transistors, ran at 5 megahertz initially, and consumed up to 2.5 watts of power.

While silicon-on-sapphire substrates provided some advantages in terms of performance and power consumption, as Shirriff’s examination confirms, they weren’t as densely packed with transistors as silicon ones.

Furthermore, “crystal incompatibilities” between silicon and sapphire made manufacturing challenging, resulting in a nine percent yield for HP.

This difficulty likely played a significant role in establishing silicon as the material of choice for IC manufacturing in subsequent years.

Source: techspot

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