The Physics of Computing - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780128093818, 9780128096161

The Physics of Computing

1st Edition

Authors: Marilyn Wolf
eBook ISBN: 9780128096161
Paperback ISBN: 9780128093818
Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
Published Date: 2nd November 2016
Page Count: 276
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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


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© Morgan Kaufmann 2017
Morgan Kaufmann
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About the Author

Marilyn Wolf

Marilyn Wolf is Farmer Distinguished Chair and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her BS, MS, and PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1980, 1981, and 1984, respectively. She was with AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1984 to 1989. She was on the faculty of Princeton University from 1989 to 2007. Her research interests included embedded computing, embedded video and computer vision, and VLSI systems. She has received the ASEE Terman Award and IEEE Circuits and Systems Society Education Award. She is a Fellow of the IEEE and ACM and an IEEE Computer Society Golden Core member.. She is the author of two successful Morgan Kaufmann textbooks on embedded systems: Computers as Components, Third Edition (2012; 4e under contract); and High-Performance Embedded Computing, Second Edition (2014).

Affiliations and Expertise

Farmer Distinguished Chair and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, Georgia Institute of Technology, GA, USA

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