The Physics of Computing

The Physics of Computing

1st Edition - October 16, 2016

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  • Author: Marilyn Wolf
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128096161
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128093818

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The Physics of Computing gives a foundational view of the physical principles underlying computers. Performance, power, thermal behavior, and reliability are all harder and harder to achieve as transistors shrink to nanometer scales. This book describes the physics of computing at all levels of abstraction from single gates to complete computer systems. It can be used as a course for juniors or seniors in computer engineering and electrical engineering, and can also be used to teach students in other scientific disciplines important concepts in computing. For electrical engineering, the book provides the fundamentals of computing that link core concepts to computing. For computer science, it provides foundations of key challenges such as power consumption, performance, and thermal. The book can also be used as a technical reference by professionals.

Key Features

  • Links fundamental physics to the key challenges in computer design, including memory wall, power wall, reliability
  • Provides all of the background necessary to understand the physical underpinnings of key computing concepts
  • Covers all the major physical phenomena in computing from transistors to systems, including logic, interconnect, memory, clocking, I/O


Undergraduate students in computer engineering, electrical engineering, computer science. For EEs, provides fundamentals of computing that links core EE concepts to computing. For CS, provides foundations of key challenges such as power consumption, performance, and heat. Professional reference uses for people who want the basics for topics such as heat dissipation, leakage, performance, etc.

Table of Contents

    • Preface
    • Chapter 1. Electronic Computers
      • 1.1. Introduction
      • 1.2. The long road to computers
      • 1.3. Computer system metrics
      • 1.4. A tour of this book
      • 1.5. Synthesis
    • Chapter 2. Transistors and Integrated Circuits
      • 2.1. Introduction
      • 2.2. Electron devices and electronic circuits
      • 2.3. Physics of materials
      • 2.4. Solid-state devices
      • 2.5. Integrated circuits
      • 2.6. Synthesis
    • Chapter 3. Logic Gates
      • 3.1. Introduction
      • 3.2. The CMOS inverter
      • 3.3. Static gate characteristics
      • 3.4. Delay
      • 3.5. Power and energy
      • 3.6. Scaling theory
      • 3.7. Reliability
      • 3.8. Synthesis
    • Chapter 4. Sequential Machines
      • 4.1. Introduction
      • 4.2. Combinational logic
      • 4.3. Interconnect
      • 4.4. Sequential machines
      • 4.5. Synthesis
    • Chapter 5. Processors and Systems
      • 5.1. Introduction
      • 5.2. System reliability
      • 5.3. Processors
      • 5.4. Memory
      • 5.5. Mass storage
      • 5.6. System power consumption
      • 5.7. Heat transfer
      • 5.8. Synthesis
    • Chapter 6. Input and Output
      • 6.1. Introduction
      • 6.2. Displays
      • 6.3. Image sensors
      • 6.4. Touch sensors
      • 6.5. Microphones
      • 6.6. Accelerometers and inertial sensors
      • 6.7. Synthesis
    • Chapter 7. Emerging Technologies
      • 7.1. Introduction
      • 7.2. Carbon nanotubes
      • 7.3. Quantum computers
      • 7.4. Synthesis
    • Appendix A. Useful Constants and Formulas
    • Appendix B. Circuits
    • Appendix C. Probability
    • Appendix D. Advanced Topics
    • References
    • Index

Product details

  • No. of pages: 276
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Morgan Kaufmann 2016
  • Published: October 16, 2016
  • Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128096161
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128093818

About the Author

Marilyn Wolf

Marilyn Wolf is Elmer E. Koch Professor of Engineering and Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. She received her BS, MS, and PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University. She was with AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1984 to 1989, was on the faculty of Princeton University from 1989 to 2007 and was Farmer Distinguished Chair in Embedded Computing Systems and GRA Eminent Scholar at the Georgia Institute of Technology from 2007 to 2019. Her research interests include cyber-physical systems, Internet-of-Things, embedded computing, embedded computer vision, and VLSI systems. She has received the IEEE Computer Society Goode Memorial Award, the ASEE Terman Award, and IEEE Circuits and Systems Society Education Award. She is a Fellow of the IEEE and ACM and a Golden Core member of IEEE Computer Society. She is the author of several successful Morgan Kaufmann textbooks: Computers as Components, Fourth Edition (2016); High-Performance Embedded Computing, Second Edition (2014); Embedded System Interfacing, First Edition (2019); and The Physics of Computing, First Edition (2016).

Affiliations and Expertise

Chair, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA

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