The History of Moore’s Law

| April 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

Its exactly 50 years that the Silicon Valley Pioneer Gordon Moore lay out his theorem that the number of transistors on a silicon chip, would double every year or so. With this “Moore’s Law” even smaller machines and technology would be able to be created, and with more power. The law has been the foretelling of personal computers, laptops, smart TV’s and now mobile phones. Its not just the personal tech that benefits from this constant improvement, its the larger server builds that house our data in the cloud. This is the backbone to Google, and Facebook. The web servers and network routers that make up these large companies data management are improved with the same law with each generation.

Gordon Moore

Gordon Moore was a semiconductor engineer who was asked by Electronics magazine in 1965 to submit an article for their 35th anniversary. The brief of the article was to make predictions about the semiconductor and electronics industry over the next 10 years. At the time Mr Moore was one of the leading researcher’s at Fairchild Semiconductors. He predicted that the engineers working in the electronics industry would keep shrinking the transistors, resistors, and other components that made up what was known as a computer at that time. He even predicted that the rise of this miniaturization would result in such things as the home computer, automatic controls for automobiles, and even portable communications gear.

semiconductor photo

semiconductor photo

The Birth of Moore’s Law

3 years after the article was published, Gordon Moore would go onto co found Intel Corp with Robert Noyce. He then projected 10 years of component doubling to reach 65,000 components on a chip by 1975. He later came back to revisit this protection, and revised it to be a doubling every 2 years. At the time he hadn’t meant his projections to be taken as a target for the electronics industry, but Carver Mead, who was a professor at the California Institute of Technology dubbed it Moore’s Law. It wasn’t so much a prediction as Moore himself commented, but was more of an observation into what the engineers at the time were able to achieve. It has since become something that the global chip manufacturers have recognized is a minimum standard for them to keep up with and drive the sales of technology forward.

Moore’s Law 1980’s

With Moore’s Law we can confidently predict the capacity and performance that will come in the future in the area of computing. Moore’s Law has seen some important changes, and has actually been at least 3 different laws in progress. In the first era of Moore’s Law the focus was on the scaling up of the number of components that could be contained on a single chip. In the early 1980’s the majority of CPU’s could only perform what was known as integer mathematics. This is when calculations are done without decimal places. If you wanted to do floating point calculations, you had to purchase a separate motherboard and chip unit that was designed exclusively for this type of calculation.

Moore’s Law 1990’s

In the mid 1990’s came what was known as Moore’s Law 2.0. This involved the technique known as Dennard Scaling. This was the approach that stated as the transistors on the chips became smaller, the amount of power and current they required also became smaller. Dennard Scaling stated that the transistors being doubled from Moore’s Law would be cooler, and would also consume less power. Then in 2005 Intel and AMD broke support for Dennard Scaling and instead of concentrating on clock based scaling, they moved towards adding more CPU cores, and instead improving the performance of single threading. This has continued through to 2014 with the total cost per square millimeter of CPU chips being driven down, and therefore allowing the technology to expand exponentially into the mobile marketplace.

Moore’s Law 2015

Moore’s Law 3.0 has begun, and includes the integration of functions not normally seen inside the CPU. Functions such as graphic rendering and camera processing technology are included. Normally there has been other parts of a computer that have dealt with these functions. Most notably has been the graphic cards that are inside video game consoles, and pc’s. They are normally developed by graphic specific companies such as Nvidia. Now they are being integrated in CPU design which again will lead to smaller technology, and higher performance. We have started to see wearable tech which is also a culmination of this stage of Moore’s Law.

The Future of Moore’s Law

The future looks bright with regards to Moore Law, and by 2025, the capacity of the chip will be the same as the human brain. We will then have a new revolution in robotics, and personal computers. The next cutting edge research into the future of semiconductor research is already looking into quantum computing technology, where components are able to have multiple states and store current internally. Its an exciting world of tomorrow.

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