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Moore’s Law Turns 50

Two interesting and important things that I can think of happened in 1965.

One was the introduction of Moore’s Law.

Moore’s Law is based on an observation that Gordon Moore, who co-founded Intel, made that year in which he stated that, looking back over the hardware history, the number of transistors in an integrated circuit had doubled just about every year. Moore turned that observation into a prediction that was revised in 1975 to forecast that the doubling time would be two years. This has actually held up pretty well over the past five decades. One big reason why this has been the case is that the semiconductor industry adopted it as the target threshold for their R&D efforts. With all this behind it, working towards – and achieving – the goal of doubling capacity every two years made it something of a self-fulfilling prophecy for Moore’s Law. The Law also expanded beyond semiconductors to much of the digital world: memory, prices, etc.

Whether or not Moore’s Law caused all the technological progress, the fact that computer power increased so regularly and dramatically, while prices decreased so regularly and dramatically, is what has brought about our being able to hold a pretty-packed computing device in our hand (or wear it on our wrist) and use it to summon up our smart thermostat and whatever else is out there in the vast Internet of things.

The article I saw on this in Fortune a few weeks back sums things up pretty well:

“Take the example of social networking using a mobile phone. It works because the cost of a transistor has dropped a million fold and computing is about 10,000 times more energy efficient since 1980, when this writer first went to engineering school. Consequently, a $200 smart phone powered by a biscuit-sized battery contains a micro-chip with a few billion transistors in it and enough computing power to digitally process an image, and then upload and share it wirelessly using powerful mathematics to encode the data. This is a consequence of Moore’s Law in action.” (Source: Fortune)

Despite its 50 year track record, most believe that Moore’s Law may be starting to show its age and, in another ten years, will start to run up against some physical limitations. Once things get to the atomic level.

All very interesting.

As for another important thing that happened in 1965. Well, he may be turning 50, but he’s not planning on slowing down anytime soon…