Moore's Law

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.
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Moore's Law states that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit (IC) grows 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 PC[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 (fundamental) law of nature but 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 atomic structure of matter. Circuit components will be so small they are comparable in size to atoms. At this scale, quantum tunneling becomes a lot more likely. For the purposes of circuitry, that means it is harder to control a signal. You could make computers larger, but this only works up to a point due to the finite speeds at which electrons and photons can travel. Most computers today rely on electric signals (flow of electrons) through conducting wires but engineers are exploring the possibilities of optical signals as well, given the success of fiber optics. Quantum computing is an attempt to bypass this problem by taking advantage of quantum uncertainties. Note that this is a proper use of the world "quantum", unlike what you see from Deepak Chopra.

A self-fulfilled prophecy

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. Incidents that have significant impacts upon humanity could affect the how well the law is fulfilled.

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.

Posited ways to extend Moore's Law

3D integrated circuits

The current semiconductor manufacturing approach follows the assertion that Moore's Law can be extended by arranging transistors in a 3D configuration.

Photonic transistors

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