Friday, 4 December 2009

Microprocessors Had 'Biggest Impact' - But Who Would Get Attribution?

EPSRC have conducted a poll which has resulted in the microprocessor being voted the scientific discovery with the biggest impact on the planet in the last 50 years.
But who should we thank? Which researcher could claim their 25% when the REF comes around? And when was the impact felt? In the seventies with pocket calculators and digital watches? In the early eighties with all those BBC micros and ZX Spectrums? In the nineties with mobile phones? In the noughties with superfast laptops, mp3 players and iPhones? Surely by 2008-13 the impact has already peaked and passed...
EPSRC have highlighted the work of Federico Faggin. But look at the history of the microprocessor, sketched out by Wikipedia, which begins by saying that 'three projects arguably delivered a complete microprocessor at about the same time.' I don't envy the REF panels the job of untangling the gordian knot of impact attribution. Unless, of course, it's decided to slice it off altogether...

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