Tall buildings were the vanguards of the modern world. They completely changed how cities functioned, bringing forth totally new social and urban systems. The reasons they changed cities are surprisingly similar to the reasons they may change the way computer memory is built.
Imagine a skyscraper. Each floor might contain a different company or program–one might be apartments, while another might hold offices, while another might serve as a grocery store. Now think of the same things–homes, offices, and stores–spread out in a suburban grid.
The tall building is a much more efficient way to use space, right? There, you don’t need a car to move between your home and office. There are no traffic jams. There’s a shorter distance to move in general. Even moving between skyscrapers can be done without a vehicle. As the historian Rosemarie Haag Bletter put it, the skyscraper “affected the scale and density of central cities more drastically than railroads or schools.” It changed the world forever by adding a new dimension to the built world.
The same reasoning applies to computer chips today. Inside your computer, you’ll find memory chips laid out horizontally like houses and malls around a suburban community–all connected by long lengths of wire, which shuttle data like cars on streets. It’s not a very efficient way to move information around inside your computer, at Stanford News explains this week.
“Suburban-style layouts create long commutes and regular traffic jams in electronic circuits, wasting time and energy,” writes Ramin Skibba. But, as Skibba explains, creating “skyscrapers” out of multiple chips hasn’t been a great solution either–mostly because fabricating them at super-hot temperatures damages the lower-level chips that have already been made. […]