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LinuxWorld: Silicon neurons in an analog world

Dec 27, 2000, 16:12 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David Cuthbert, Cameron Laird)

"The advanced processors that emerged from Carver Mead's Caltech laboratory mimic the analog response of natural systems. Cameron Laird and guest columnist David Cuthbert look at further developments that could lead to more portable and power-thrifty devices."

"...time to market is not the critical factor in every design. Power consumption is becoming the limiting factor in more systems, especially in portable electronics. In this domain, analog holds a significant advantage. The smaller component count means fewer components require power. Also, swinging an output from one rail to the other requires a significant amount of power. Reducing the range of the swing helps somewhat. (This motivated the gradual drop in digital logic's operating voltage from 5 volts to today's 1.8 volts.) Still, an analog design utilizing the full range of output voltages will always have better power efficiency than its digital counterpart."

"This has led to a renaissance of sorts in analog design. Interest is on the rise in both industry (where the demand for analog design tools far surpasses their availability) and in university research laboratories, such as the Physics of Computation (Physcmp) group at Caltech, headed by Carver Mead until recently. As an undergraduate there, David Cuthbert (coauthor of this article) observed the group's efforts to bring neurally inspired computing to the silicon realm. The remainder of this article is a brief summary of ideas picked up there. For more detail, see the homepages of former Physcmp students. ... Brad Minch, in particular, offers the presentation "Analog Signal Processing: Why Bother?"

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