Moore's Law

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
— Outline Only —
This article is only a brief description of the subject, and is not intended to give a full explanation.
Check out the "see also" or "references" sections, or Wikipedia's article for more detail.
Transistor counts for integrated circuits plotted against their dates of introduction. The curve shows Moore's law — the doubling of transistor counts every two years. The y axis is logarithmic, so the line corresponds to exponential growth.

Moore's Law states that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit (IC) will increase exponentially. The statement was first made by Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel, in an April 1965 paper[1] in Electronics Magazine. Titled "Cramming more components onto integrated circuits", the article describes how Moore expects the number of transistors to double every year. In 1975 Moore adjusted this to doubling every two years. This is why today's desktop is over 64,000 times more powerful than say, the first IBM PCWikipedia's W.svg[2] and that therefore today's desktop is about 64,000 times better than that POS IBM, your (scientific) calculator, Walkman, record player, cassette machine, record and tape collection, TV, Polaroid, instamatic, photo album, Atari, and Dungeons and Dragons books all put together. Not 64 times better, not 640 times better, not even 6,400 times better, but 64,000 frickin' times better!!  —and you know what, in 16 years it'll be even 1 million times better!! (say what?!?) Can you diggit!?

Proponents of the theory of technological singularity often cite Moore's Law to defend or support their arguments.[Who?] This is based on a profound misunderstanding of the "law"; Moore's law is not a law of nature, merely an observation at the rough pace of development of computers so far.

At a certain point Moore's Law will run up against the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. A switch will be so small it will no longer be able to retain a definite quantum state (on or off) at the same time its position was so precisely defined. You could make computers larger, but this only works up to a point due to the finite speed of light. Quantum computing is an attempt to bypass this problem by turning it into its own solution (and because the word "quantum" sounds so advanced-sciency — Deepak Chopra seems to think so too).

A self-fulfilled prophecy[edit]

It should be noted that just calling something a "law" doesn't automatically mean that it ought to happen or that it must happen. It should be obvious that it is only through the everyday efforts of the people in the tech industry that current processing power "keeps up" with the law rather than because of the law — although economic predictions are routinely made in the industry on the basis of the law. Wars, natural and economic disasters, etc. could all affect the steady fulfillment of the law (regardless of technological constraints) and nothing stops humans from regressing, slowing down, or even speeding up.

A common misunderstanding of Moore's Law is that it's all about "clock speeds". Moore's Law is only about the number of components on an IC. A microprocessor can become more powerful by being able to perform more instructions in a single clock cycle. Moore's Law also applies to the sizes of RAM and permanent data storage such as solid state drives.

3D integrated circuits[edit]

Moore's Law can be extended by arranging transistors in a 3D configuration.

Photonic transistors[edit]

Another way to extend Moore's Law would be to use photonic transistors or switches instead of electronic transistors.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Wirth's lawWikipedia's W.svg (why your computer isn't 64,000 times better than an IBM PC)