Saturday, January 08, 2005

 

Batteries Not Keeping Up With Technology

I've heard and read a few reports over the past week about the fact that batteries for mobile applications aren't keeping up with the rest of technology; MSNBC has such a report here. Inevitably, the comparison with Moore's Law comes up:

Moore’s Law states that the complexity of circuits doubles every 18 months,
while on average battery capacity increases only 5 percent to 10 percent a year.
Generally speaking, the more complex a circuit—specifically, the more
transistors on a microprocessor—the more current it will draw. Now add to that
the new demands of wireless computing, which uses additional power to transmit
and receive, and it’s pretty clear we’re approaching a major energy crisis in
the portable world.


The problem is that while current demands increase proportionally with transistor count and operating frequency, utility does not. We seem to have lost track of that fact in our frenzy to push technology to its limits, and while the cost of blindly increasing processor speed and transistor count has not yet caught the eye of consumers, battery life issues are kinda hard to ignore.

So what to do? Simple. Just determine how much computational horsepower one really needs to accomplish a given task. Maybe I'm missing out on an important aspect of life by not running the latest and greatest PDA, but I can get a few weeks of normal usage from my Palm V without recharging. What do average folks do on laptops that requires a monsterous screen, killer video processing, and a CPU in the multi-gig range? Yea, sure, that really helps surf the web faster over a typical wireless network. And maybe it's time to give up the monster color screens and polyphonic ring tones on our cell phones if we'd like to eek out a few more minutes of life away from a charger.

I'm not suggesting that we adopt a Luddite attitude towards improving mobile technology, but rather that we treat this technology like everything else in life - a series of compromises and trade-offs.

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