From the early middle ages onwards, alchemists pursued the dream of turning base-metal into gold but, apart from Edmund Blackadder’s chum Lord Percy Percy inventing ‘Green’, it took until the late 60s (well before Gordon Moore wrote his Law) for alchemists to reach their goal. Well, maybe not lead into gold but, even better than that, posh sand into hard cash…

blackaddrer lord percy percy green
– BBC / Tumblr

Sand worth more than gold

A typical microprocessor chip has 3 billion transistors etched into its 0.25 sq cm surface and its volume of 0.03c cubic cm of doped silicon weighs 0.07 grams. If it was gold it would sell for £2.00 but as a processor chip it cost pennies to manufacture but, weight for weight, is worth more than 50 times that of gold – alchemy that even the supremely sarcastic Edmund would be proud of.

In a way, the same sort of cost/benefit leverage is a barrier to most ICT users worrying too much about energy consumption: The cost of a server and its energy consumption (even in a data centre with a low resource effectiveness) is tiny in relation to the business value that it can enable, with 1kWh enabling over 350x its cost.