How Moores Law Came About

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-05-14 Print this article Print

Moore is world-famous for devising "Moore's law," a principle that first was published in the April 19, 1965 edition of Electronics Magazine. The "law" is as follows: "The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has increased exponentially, doubling approximately every two years."

Moore's article, entitled "Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits," contained the following key excerpt:

The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year ... Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000. I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single wafer.
--From Electronics Magazine, April 19, 1965

Prediction Accurate, 44 Years Later

Few scientific predictions have been more on target.

Every measure of the capabilities of electronic digital devices is strongly tied to Moore's Law, because they all rely on silicon processors for computing power. Processing speed, memory capacity, even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras all can be related to Moore's law.

All of these are improving performance at exponential rates. Moore's law has been the best description of this driving force of technological change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Moore said that he believes there are still several good years of silicon chip development ("Maybe five," he said) left before the industry would have to move on to something else. Thus, Moore's Law should be relevant until about 2014.

"These things [processors] just cannot get too much smaller," Moore said. "Of course, we're still nowhere near the size of an atom, and that's as small as anything can ever get. What are we getting down to now? 21 nanometers, I think, is what Intel is working on now."

Intel's most recent Westmere chips measure 32 nanometers across.

"It's going to take a monstrous investment to move processors off silicon and find something else," Moore said. "We've already got full chemistry labs on a chip, and so on. The chips we use for triggers for car airbags are minuscule and very impressive. We've done amazing things, really, with the first 50 years of integrated processors."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel