Sunday, January 9, 2011

Moore's Law, or Observation, Or Whatever: 45 Years Later

"45 Years Later, Does Moore's Law Still Hold True?"
Jeremy A. Kaplan, Technology, (January 4, 2011)

"Intel has packed just shy of a billion transistors into the 216 square millimeters of silicon that compose its latest chip, each one far, far thinner than a sliver of human hair.

"But this mind-blowing feat of engineering doesn't really surprise us, right? After all, that's just Moore's Law in action … isn't it?

"In 1965, an article in 'Electronics' magazine by Gordon Moore, the future founder of chip juggernaut Intel, predicted that computer processing power would double roughly every 18 months. Or maybe he said 12 months. Or was it 24 months? Actually, nowhere in the article did Moore actually spell out that famous declaration, nor does the word 'law' even appear in the article at all.

"Yet the idea has proved remarkably resilient over time, entering the public zeitgeist and lodging hold like a tick on dog -- or maybe a stubborn computer virus you just can't eradicate. But does it hold true? Strangely, that seems to depend more than anything on who you ask...."

Quotes from the article, about 'Moore's Law,' or observation, or whatever it is:
  • "Yes, it still matters, and yes we're still tracking it"
    Mark Bohr, Intel senior fellow and director of process architecture and integration
  • "Moore's law isn't tracking exactly, but the spirit of the law is still alive in that the dies are still shrinking, and CPUs become more and more capable every 12-18 months or so"
    Joel Santo Domingo, lead analyst, desktops at
  • "I did the math, and while it's not exactly doubling every two years, it's pretty close"
    Michael Miller, the award-winning math geek and former editor in chief of
  • "Semiconductor chips haven't actually tracked the progress predicted by Moore's law for many years"
    Tom Halfhill, chip analyst with industry bible the Microprocessor Report
Halfhill compared "Moore's law" to Bode's law, which described a regularity in orbits of planets in the Solar system.

"...Halfhill is quick to note that Moore's law isn't truly a scientific law, merely 'an astute observation.' In fact, since Gordon Moore made his observation in '65, the law has been modified and manipulated to fit the actual progress of semiconductors to such an extent that it can arguably be said to have predicted nothing.

"It's also been so frequently misused that Halfhill was forced to define Moron's Law, which states that 'the number of ignorant references to Moore's Law doubles every 12 months.'..."

Halfhill gets the last word - at least in this article:

"...'Moore law is almost whatever you want to make it mean. And as long as chips keep getting faster, that's good enough for most people.' "

It's good enough for the Lemming, anyway. The computer used to write this post is - well, a whole lot faster and able to do a very great deal more than the Lemming's first computer, with its 386 processor and a hard drive able to hold almost 10 megabytes of data.

Sort-of-related posts:Links to more posts:More about Moore's law and the size of computer chips:


Brigid said...

Wasn't your first computer a PC Jr? Did those things even have hard drives?

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Man! I forgot that old PC Jr. How could I?! And, you're right: that was hard-drive-free.

Thanks for the reminder.

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