Center for Strategic Communication

How would non-digital chips work? DARPA paints a picture. Image: DARPA

By definition, a computer is a machine that processes and stores data as 1s and 0s. But the U.S. Department of Defense wants to tear up that definition and start from scratch.

Through its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the Defense Department is funding a new program called UPSIDE, short for Unconventional Processing of Signals for Intelligent Data Exploitation). Basically, the program will investigate a brand new way of doing computing without the digital processors that have come to define computing as we know it.

The aim is to build computer chips that are a whole lot more power efficient than today’s processors — even if they make mistakes every now and then.