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Moore's Law: 40 and still going strong


March 17, 2005

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On April 19, 1965 Electronics Magazine published a paper by Gordon Moore in which he made a prediction about the semiconductor industry that has become the stuff of legend. Known as Moore’s Law, his prediction has enabled widespread proliferation of technology worldwide, and today has become shorthand for rapid technological change. That was forty years ago - Bill Gates was nine years old, Desktop PCs were still a long way off, and notebooks, PDAs and the internet had not been thought of. Moore predicted that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit would continue to double every year for the next decade. Although it was an observation rather than any attempt to formulate a scientific law, "Moore's Law" has proved remarkably accurate over the last 40 years.

Moore adjusted the time period to two years in the mid-70's, compensating for the increasing complexity of semiconductors, but the exponential growth continues - for example the Pentium 4 processor released in 2000 contains 42 million transistors compared to the 1999 Pentium III's 24 million.

The current definition for Moore's Law is that computing speed doubles every 18 months and this is expected to continue for two decades, but its importance lies in the proven growth trend it exposes and subsequent technological advances, not the accuracy of its prediction. Intel expects to produce billion-transistor processors by 2010 and the capacity for growth that this "Law" sets out keeps chip manufacturers from becoming too complacent.

Not only did Dr. Moore predict the rate of growth, he was very much a part of the coinciding technological developments. He co-founded Intel Corporation in 1968, served as CEO from 1975 until 1987 and became Chairman Emeritus in 1997. Dr Moore also foresaw the radical changes in electronics that would take place in the final decades of the 21st century.

At around the time he formulated Moore's Law he that "Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers...automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment".

Moore also understands the economic implications of the exponential growth in processing power - in an interview earlier this year he noted that the "single most important thing Moore's Law does is decrease cost".

As for current predictions of what the future holds, Moore admits that its too difficult to call - the PC was not on the radar screen in 1960, nor the internet in 1990 - but will definitely be full of surprises.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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