Future

From The Ruins Of A Polish Coal Mining Town Comes The World's Fastest Processor

Ruins of a mine boiler in Rozbark coal mine in Bytom
Ruins of a mine boiler in Rozbark coal mine in Bytom
Przemysław Jedlecki

BYTOM – In this desolate coal-mining town in southern Poland, every fifth resident is unemployed.

You can see the impact of mining on the surroundings in this rugged region of Silesia: damaged buildings and streets, and the remains of industrial structures. Many of Bytom's store and home windows are boarded up or covered in bricks.

Polish reporters don’t visit this town very often – unless there is a murder, a construction disaster or the demolition of a historic building.

Extensive underground coal mining has resulted in huge terrain surface changes – a phenomenon called subsidence – with the surface of the earth lowering by 18 meters since 1965. In the neighborhood of Karb, the walls of houses suddenly started to crack, forcing inhabitants to move. Buildings were razed to the ground. The world saw a Polish image of desolation and despair.

The city's deterioration is undeniable. People continue to associate Bytom with coal mines and steel mills, but today there isn't a single steel mill and just one coal mine left -- and those with big ambitions all seem to be the first to go.

But not everyone has left. Jacek Hanke, the co-founder and CEO of Digital Core Design (DCD). And in this foresaken place, his company has just created the world's fastest processor.

Hanke started his company with two classmates from the Silesian University of Technology. DCD has ten employees, all of whom studied in Silesia or at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow. The view from the window, in an old office building in central Bytom, is of an old coal mine.

In every SIM card

Earlier this month, DCD announced at the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany that they had created the world’s fastest 8051 processor – the DQ80251.

DQ80251 is based on 8051 specifications developed by Intel in 1980 and has been used by engineers all over the world for 30 years. The model was discontinued by Intel five years ago, but continues to be in high demand in many parts of the world.

“It is one of the most popular microcontrollers in the history of electronics,” says Hanke. A computer can use as many as several dozen 8051 microcontrollers, as well as a car or a refrigerator. This processor is also found on every SIM card. It is approximately 0.2 square millimeters.

According to Hanke, the DQ80251 can execute 66 times more operations than competing processors working on the same standard. DCD itself does not produce the chip, it is licensed to companies who manufacture it themselves. Among Bytom’s clients are Toyota, Intel, Sony, Philips, Siemens, Sagem and General Electric, as well as a few unnamed arms manufacturers.

Why the need for such a fast processor? Time and convenience, says Hanke. This kind of chip is in every USB drive, and having a fast processor makes, for example, transferring hundreds of photos onto your computer take a matter of minutes, instead of hours or days.

“The death of 8051 has been announced for 10 to 20 years now,” says Hanke. But applications for the microcontroller are constantly growing.

DCD has had several proposals to move from Bytom to Western Europe and the U.S. but the owners have always refused.

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Society

Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.


Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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