"Tell me about this chip that's coming in today," I request. "What's it look like?"
"Imagine a human hair. The wires in the chip we're testing today are only a fraction of the width of a human hair." Hard to imagine something so small, so invisible, so fast. He's expecting a new chip to arrive from Taiwan today. It means a late night at work testing the chip and getting it to do what it's designed to do. He and his team will begin the debugging process today. I asked him if he works on microchips and got schooled in the language of chips and processors.
Apparently microchip is an old word, a word that described the smaller chips that were measured in microns. The chips John works on are measured in nanos--there's not a word for that. Nano chip isn't really used. "There are ASICS (application specific integrated circuits) and network processors. But we just call it a chip," he said.
The chip they will test is a network processor. I can't quite visualize what that means. John explained that this chip will transmit 300 million packets (of information) a second. Of course in my mind, I'm seeing small packages--like the painted magnets my four-year-old niece wrapped in white butcher paper and gave me-- moving from hand to hand.
Three million is beyond my mind's eye. The packets are computer code, those 1s and0s that make everything happen seemingly in the air right before your eyes. John says he is "a solution looking for a problem" and I think really he is a creationist, making something where nothing seemed to exist before. Conjuring magic.