Each unit is a small (0.02 mm diameter) glass bead surrounded by an atomic microcircuit. The outer microcircutry is a conventional computer which simultaneously solves any computations handed to it, and teaches the glass to solve those same computations faster. The glass itself is an amorphous field of oxygen and silicon atoms (more recent models include additional imperfections; this tends to slow the training time but produce a better computational fit at the end). The microcircutry around it has electromagnetic sensors and pushers, and nanowire x-ray emitters to change the internal structure of the glass. When the computing unit is given a task, the outer circuitry immediately solves it the conventional way, while near-randomly adjusting the glass until it produces a very near match to the task. Running the glass consists of sending electromagnetic pushes on specific atoms on the outer surface and letting the vibrations propagate through the glass, pushing other “output” pushers elsewhere. For complex tasks, the microcircutry will tend to wait for 2 clock cycles (the time for the vibration to get from one side, to the other, and back) before using the results. At full speed (single propogation), the bead has a clock cycle of 280 MHz (as it operates by audio propagation through the glass). The glass itself has roughly 45 million atoms in it, giving it an impressive number of possible arrangements (and, as this is an evolutionary system, even slight changes in the orientation of individual atoms can have a drastic effect). As a result, a glass bead can perform incredibly complex calculations in a single clock second. An early test run had a bead recognizing an apple with 80% accuracy in a single clock cycle.
The ASCU is intended as a universal high-focus computing system. It optimizes itself to run the sorts of analysis that is routinely being asked of it, learning to resolve arbitrary tasks in single clock cycles. It is intended for use in AI research, stored mainframes, advanced research. It is not intended for use anywhere communication between two systems is necessary, as the 280 MHz clock cycle is too slow to keep up with modern communication networks.