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Moore’s Law

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Moore’s Law turns 50 years old this week. If you are unsure of what Moore’s Law is, let me explain. Back in the early 1960s, integrated circuits were coming on the scene but were very expensive. Some commentators believed they would be of limited use because of their size and expense. A physical chemist by the name of Gordon Moore saw a much different future.

In his article in Electronics Magazine he extrapolated a few data points and made a bold prediction. He predicted that the number of transistors on a microchip would double annually for the next ten years. He believed that this rapid progress would lead to home computers and even “personal portable communications equipment.” Years later, another physicist dubbed Moore’s prediction about transistors “Moore’s Law.” And in 1975, he actually revised the forecast and said the doubling time would be two years.

Of course, there is probably an upper limit. Some are now suggesting that Moore’s Law is about to be repealed. Only time will tell. But if you look at a graph of transistor count versus date of introduction, you can see how Moore’s Law has been a remarkable prediction. We are the beneficiaries of this technological explosion. Just look at your laptop computer, your smart phone, and all the electronic components in your home and car.

One commentator compared Gordon Moore’s prediction to the film “Field of Dreams.” The character, played by Kevin Costner, hears a voice that tells him, “If you build it, he will come.” The “he” in the movie are dead baseball players (including his father). For Gordon Moore, the “he” in this prediction was all the high tech inventors who created and manufactured the digital devices we use today.

Some wonder if the only limit to Moore’s Law isn’t physical but political. The FCC and current administration want to impose various governmental policies and rules on the Internet. Let’s hope not. We all benefit from the technological breakthroughs that Gordon Moore saw through a mirror darkly fifty years ago.

Viewpoints by Kerby Anderson

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