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Teraflops chip points to future

A chip with 80 processing cores and capable of more than a trillion calculations per second (teraflops) has been unveiled by Intel.

The Teraflops chip is not a commercial release but could point the way to more powerful processors, said the firm.

The chip achieves performance on a piece of silicon no bigger than a fingernail that 11 years ago required a machine with 10,000 chips inside it.

The challenge is to find a way to program the many cores simultaneously.

Current desktop machines have up to four separate cores, while the Cell processor inside the PlayStation 3 has eight (seven of them useable). Each core is effectively a programmable chip in its own right.

But to take advantage of the extra processing power, programmers need to gives instructions to each core that work in parallel with one another.

There are already specialist chips with multiple cores - such as those used in router hardware and graphics cards - but Dr Mark Bull, at the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, said multi-core chips were forcing a sea-change in the programming of desktop applications.

"It's not too difficult to find two or four independent things you can do concurrently, finding 80 or more things is more difficult, especially for desktop applications.

"It is going to require quite a revolution in software programming.

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