Saturday, October 01, 2005

Moore's Law

On Thursday, I went to the Computer History Museum celebration of the 40th anniversary of Moore's Law. The centerpiece of the event was Gordon Moore in converation with Carver Mead. David House introduced the speakers and in his introduction read some remarkably prescient passages from the 1965 paper describing applications for the microelectronics to come.

During the conversation Moore explained why he wrote the paper. At the time, integrated circuits were expensive and mainly used in military applications. Most people believed that integrated circuits were a niche products and would remain that way. Moore wanted to show that integrated circuit technology was advancing rapidly and that they were the best way of building any electronic product.

So in a sense the paper was marketing, selling the concept of integrated circuits to a sceptical audience with the goal of widening the market for their use, obviously to benefit the companies that were producing integrated circuits. At the time the idea was controversial. Even nowadays we often forget the remarkable logic of Moore's law, designing systems with the hardware that we have now rather than designing the system to exploit the hardware will be there when the system is fully realized.

A remarkable thing is that the original paper extrapolated Moore's Law out to 1975. Since then we have ridden the Law for another 30 years, and it is not going to stop any time soon. Moore told us that they have always been able to see out about 3 generations of manufacturing technology, where each generation is now about 2 years. So they can see how they are going to follow Moore's Law for at least the next 6 years.

No comments: