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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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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGOTikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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