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Moore's Law

MOORE'S LAW

Moore's Law was expounded in a 1965 Electronics Magazine article by Gordon Moore, who was then the research director at Fairchild Semiconductor. Moore noted that since the invention of the integrated circuit, the number of transistors per square inch on those circuits had doubled each year. Moore, who co-founded Intel Corp. in 1968, projected that this doubling would continue into the foreseeable future. This proved essentially correct, with subsequent data density doubling about every 18 months.

In 1975, Moore modified his law, stating that the increasing technical difficulties associated with the production of enhanced microchips would cause the number of devices located on a chip to double every two years, another prediction born out by industry trends. He noted that as microprocessor circuits get smaller, future silicon chips could contain the modem, graphic, and memory-control functions previously housed on discrete hardware in computers. Among other things, Moore's Law explains why computer technology drops in price so rapidly and so quickly becomes obsolete, giving the average computer a competitive life span of only three years.

Among the technical difficulties linked to producing shrinking chips containing ever more options is the inclusion of dopant impurities mixed into silicon to increase its capacity to hold electric-charges. As transistors get smaller, they still must hold the same charge. Thus, the silicon must include a higher percentage of dopants. But at a certain limit, dopant atoms conglomerate into electrically inert clumps. Chips manufactured by 2000 were reaching that limit of operability. The "gates" that regulate electron flow in chips posed another problem. They had grown so minute that they were susceptible to a quantum effect in which electrons burrow through the gates even when closed. If the gates fail to block the electron stream completely, chips won't function.

In 1995, Moore presciently observed that although such technical difficulties could hamper the sustained pace of microprocessor growth, increasing manufacturing costs could prove an even bigger obstacle. Though processing equipment cost about $12,000 when Moore founded Intel, by 1995 it had risen to about $12 million, while productive output remained constant. As chip technology becomes more sophisticated, the cost of manufacturing chip grows exponentially. As capital costs outstrip income, eventually it will no longer be financially feasible to produce ever-more complex chips. This observation became known as Moore's Second Law.

Moore prophesied the end of his law in 2000 at an Intel Developer Forum, pronouncing that the technical ability to downsize microprocessors would soon collide with the finite size of atomic particles. Unless microprocessing technology changed dramatically, this would eventually halt the growth of microprocessor capacity. Moore predicted that the industry could reach such physical limitations by 2017.

FURTHER READING:

Kanellos, Michael. "Moore Says Moore's Law to Hit Wall." CNET News.com, September 30, 1997. Available from news.cnet.com.

Mann, Charles. "The End of Moore's Law?" Technology Review, May/June 2000.

SEE ALSO: Intel Corp.; Metcalfe's Law; Microprocessor; Moore, Gordon E.

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Moore's law

Moore's law, the observation made by Gordon Moore, co-founder of the Intel Corp., in a 1965 magazine article that the number of transistors per square inch on a microprocessor chip had doubled each year since the integrated circuit had been invented. This led Moore to predict that the number of transistors on a chip would double every 18 months—a time interval he later revised to every two years. Technically an axiom rather than a law, the prediction was subsequently dubbed Moore's law by the American physicist Carver Mead. The law became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy as microchip and electronics manufacturers competed to develop faster, smaller, and cheaper electronic devices; by the early 21st cent., the number of transistors on a typical memory chip had gone far beyond 1 billion. It is generally accepted that technological improvements in miniaturization and microelectronics will reach a point where circuits are only a few atoms wide, making it physically impossible to make them even smaller. To maintain the pace projected by Moore's law, new technologies such as quantum computers, optical switches, and spintronics will need to be developed.

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Moore's Law

MOORE'S LAW

In 1965, three years before he helped found Intel, Gordon Moore observed that the number of transistors on a microprocessor doubles every eighteen to twenty-four months. He concluded that the trend would cause computing power to rise exponentially over time. His prediction, now known as Moore's law, has held true in the years since, though some industry experts believe the physical limitations of silicon will cause it to fail at some future time.

The resulting trend toward ever-smaller chip design explains the falling prices of microprocessors. As Moore has noted, "If the auto industry advanced as rapidly as the semiconductor industry, a Rolls Royce would get a half a million miles per gallon, and it would be cheaper to throw it away than to park it."

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Moore's Law

MOORE'S LAW

Gordon Moore voiced his now famous law in 1965 when he predicted how quickly computer chip technology would advance. He asserted that the number of transistors that could be contained on an integrated circuit would double each year. He was right. It was not until 1995 that Moore revised his projection. Now the number doubles approximately every 18 months to two years. With advances in transistor technology, notably the invention of the molecular transistor, Moore's Law is apt to change once again.

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Moore's law

Moore's law an observation and prediction originally made in 1965 by Gordon Earle Moore (1929– ), US microchip manufacturer, stating that a new type of microprocessor chip is released every 12 to 24 months, with each new version having approximately twice as many logical elements as its predecessor, and that this trend is likely to continue.

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