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© 2021 Owner/Author. PERHAPS IN NO other technology has there been so many decades of large year-over-year improvements as in computing. It is estimated that a third of all productivity increases in the U.S. since 1974 have come from information technology,a,4 making it one of the largest contributors to national prosperity. The rise of computers is due to technical successes, but also to the economics forces that fnanced them. Bresnahan and Trajtenberg3 coined the term general purpose technology (GPT) for products, like computers, that have broad technical applicability and where product improvement and market growthcould fuel each other for many decades. But, they also predicted that GPTs could run into challenges at the end of their life cycle: as progress slows, other technologies can displace the GPT in particular niches and undermine this economically reinforcing cycle. We are observing such a transition today as improvements in central processing units (CPUs) slow, and so applications move to specialized processors, for example, graphics processing units (GPUs), which can do fewer things than traditional universal processors, but perform those functions better. Many high profle applications are already following this trend, including deep learning (a form of machine learning) and Bitcoin mining. Show more
Journal / seriesCommunications of the ACM
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