Moores Law, an axiom that has taken on the force of law in the semiconductor industry, must continue to overcome technical hurdles to survive, its creator said Monday.
But Gordon Moore, the chairman emeritus of Intel, said he believes it can last another ten years, the same period of time Moore encapsulated his original thesis, which later became an axiom and then a “law”.
Ironically, “Moores Law”: that the number of transistors on an integrated chip (alternatively referred to as “transistor” density”) doubles every 18 months, didnt start out that way.
In the April 19, 1965 issue of Electronics, Moores Law was stated as such:
“The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year (see graph on next page). 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, al- though 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.”
The graph the paragraph referred to was the now famous logarithmic scale, showing the number of components per integrated function versus the year. “Minimum cost” assumed that there was some point where reducing cost by adding integrated circuits was counterbalanced by the increase in manufacturing cost which occurred as manufacturing yields decreased.
In a keynote speech at the International Solid-State Circuit Convention here, Moore noted that David House, who presided over a number of microprocessor designs leading up to the Pentium, tweaked Moores Law into its present form. Moores initial assessment covered a 12-month period; in 1985, he lengthened it to two years. House, meanwhile, claimed that the number of transistors will roughly double in an 18-month period.
Moore also said he believes transistor densities will double every three years, and that the industry has held to an increase in MIPS every 20 months or so.
Moore said that as the industry moves forward, his law will be challenged by the fundamental limitations of light; as the linewidths between integrated circuits grow finer and finer, the distance between them has quickly shrunk to a fraction of the wavelength of visible light. Extreme UltraViolet lithography, which uses light with very short wavelengths, is being developed at Sandia National Laboratories to try and mitigate this effect. But specialized optics, including complex mirrors, are replacing photomasks as the means to etch circuits, even as tough economic conditions make funding new research even more difficult.
Moore even recommended new electrical engineers receive a firm grounding in non-technical fields.
“The one thing thats clear to me is that to participate in modern society you need a good education,” he said. “When I was growing up, mechanical things were a big deal. When you take a car apart and look atm it, its obvious. When you look at modern technology, its not obvious, and if you dont have a good education youre going to be marginalized.”