Monday, December 31, 2018

This Year in Computers: 2018




To round off the end of the year, this article will explore some of the most prominent events that affected computers this year.

Spectre and Meltdown

This year in computers started with a great scare when two exploits were found within almost every computer system in the world, including desktops, laptops, smartphones, and servers. These exploits were called Spectre and Meltdown.

            Spectre and Meltdown were first discovered by Project Zero, a team of security analysts at Google, in June 2017. Project Zero immediately informed CPU manufacturers Intel, AMD, and ARM of these exploits. The exploits dealt with how CPUs communicated their data. Spectre read virtual memory by tricking a CPU’s speculative execution, and Meltdown attacked a computer’s virtual memory by breaking it down through side-channels. Both these exploits allowed access to virtually every piece of data that passes through the CPU, including login information.

            Since then, software patches have been released by every operating system (OS) vendor to ensure that everyone’s data is secure. In addition, all new CPUs have mitigations incorporated against the exploits. As a result, CPUs are now slower due to having to limit how they manage their virtual memory and cache.

To learn more about Spectre and Meltdown, visit: meltdownattack.com

The Rise of AMD

The American multinational semiconductor company, AMD, grew significantly in terms of market share this year. AMD’s market share continues to rise as Intel’s market share declines. AMD stock prices began the year at around $10.25, jumped to $33, growing 175% in shares between March and September. The price was set to end the year at roughly $17.

This rise was due to the release of the Ryzen processor last year, and the releases of the Ryzen 2 and Threadripper 2 processors this year. Ryzen 2 CPUs were especially popular amongst consumers and were known for having lower prices and better multi-core processing than regular Intel CPUs. AMD has also announced hardware partnering with Microsoft and Sony in the future.



The Fall of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

Last year saw significant growth in the popularity of cryptocurrency mining. Cryptocurrency mining is when machines record and validate transactions made by users. Miners connect to a large networking software and use their computing power to hash transactions. GPUs are frequently used to mine cryptocurrency due to their optimized systems, which are designed to make quick calculations, thus increasing the speed of mining. This made new GPUs harder to find and increased their prices exponentially.

As a mining boom began, more people began mining, which decreased the amount mined per person. Once the boom ended, people began selling GPUs in an attempt to offset the immense start-up costs, which saturated the GPU market and decreased prices. The value of bitcoin dropped significantly this year, starting off at $15, 790 USD per bitcoin, and closing at roughly $4,000 USD per bitcoin.

RTX Raytracing Graphics

There is still minimal consumer support for ray tracing graphics, a new image rendering technique. Currently, ray tracing is generally only useful for content producers, as many image rendering and video rendering software do support it.

RTX cards, Nvidia’s newest line of graphics cards, are much more expensive than its previous line. The cards have also sacrificed performance for ray tracing abilities. Arguably, the only card in this line that has stepped up its performance from its predecessor is the RTX 2080 Ti, at a list price of $1199. In comparison, its predecessor, the GTX 1080 Ti had a list price of $699.

As a result, many consumers have turned away from Nvidia. This year, Nvidia stocks began at roughly $194, and are set to end at only $127, due to a sharp decline when RTX Graphics Cards were released in October.


Image sourced from: TechRadar,  PCGames, Internet of Business, CTBlog

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