Trapped on Technology's Trailing Edge

18-Mar-2008 5:00 PM EDT

IEEE Spectrum Magazine

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Newswise — Call it electronics obsolescence, or call it the dark side of Moore's Law: for some industries, the rapid rate of technological evolution is a logistical nightmare. According to one estimate, each month 3 percent of the world's electronic components become obsolete, meaning impossible to procure. The U.S. Department of Defense spends $10 billion a year on coping with obsolete parts.

And it's not just military programs. Similar challenges plague systems in airplanes, power grid management, and telecommunications infrastructure, to name a few. So what are systems engineers to do when that key microchip goes missing? Basically, they need to learn to predict the future, says Peter Sandborn, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland. In this piece, he takes a crack at showing them how to do so.

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