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Intel: Fifty Years Under Moore's Law

Fifty years ago yesterday, Gordon Moore published a document in Electronics magazine titled "Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits." Ten years after the original publication, the idea he put forth would become known as "Moore's Law," and it has had a significant impact on the development of computing technology.

At the time Moore was writing, the dominant solution for creating integrated electronics did not involve silicon-based semiconductors. Other methods, such as using numerous individual components, were more popular, and cheaper. Moore's first prediction was that this would change, and that using semiconductor integrated circuits would become the dominant method for producing integrated circuits.

"Semiconductor devices are the only reasonable candidates presently in existence for the active elements of integrated circuits," said Moore. "In 1970, the manufacturing cost per component can be expected to be only a tenth of the present cost."

Moore said that semiconductor integrated circuits would need 50 components inside to be cost effective. At that point, the yield from using numerous individual components would decrease enough so that using a single semiconductor integrated circuit was more cost effective.

As semiconductor technologies advanced, the number of components that could be cheaply produced on a semiconductor integrated circuit would increase, while costs dropped. Moore said that within five years, 1,000 components per circuit could be expected, and in 10 years the number of components for cheaper semiconductor integrated circuits could rise to 65,000.

This was Moore's second prediction, and it would become the primary tenant of Moore's Law. The cost for producing semiconductor integrated circuits would decrease, as complexity increased.

"The complexity for minimum component cost has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year. Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years," said Moore.

At the time this document was published, Moore was working as a researcher for Fairchild Semiconductor, but he would later leave to co-found one of the most influential companies in the computer world: Intel.

After co-founding Intel, Moore was placed in a situation where he had direct control and could push for greater innovation and advancement. Intel has striven to keep pace, and be it from natural development (as Moore predicted) or from competition with Intel, many others in the computer industry have done the same and worked tirelessly to innovate and advance technology.

Compared to the 4004, the first microprocessor developed by Intel in 1971, a modern 22nm processor has over 4,000 times the performance. At the same time, each transistor uses less than 5,000 times the energy, and the price has dropped by about a factor of 50,000.

To celebrate the50th anniversary of Moore's Law, Intel published several web pages dedicated to the history of Intel and how Moore's Law has contributed to the advancement of the company. In a video, Moore also spoke about his predictions and his surprise at how far it has gone.

Today, semiconductor integrated circuits are everywhere, in almost everything we use that uses electricity, such as remotes, TVs, phones, computers, cars, speaker systems, game consoles, watches, clocks, and numerous other devices. Thus far, Moore's Law has held true. It has helped shape modern technology, and as computers continue to advance, we can expect it to continue to be an influential force.

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  • CaedenV
    Moore's law is truly an astounding principal, but it died some 10 years ago and Intel keeps redefining it in a weird fettish of keeping it true at all costs. It use to be the number of transistors per dollar, but then we started having so many transistors that this could not be sustained. Then it was effective processing power per dollar, which pushed them through another few generations... until raw performance hit a brick wall. Now it is popularly defined as performance per watt per dollar, which works out well right now as effective performance is at a near stand-still, but they are achieving that performance at lower and lower TDP. But that is only going to work for a few more years until they are done with their die-shrink campaign. It will be interesting to see how it gets redefined again in the next 5-10 years so that Intel can continue to claim that Moore's Law is still somehow with us.

    Don't get me wrong, the man was/is a visionary, and his 'Law' was totally unexpected but turned out to be very true for a very long time; truly a game changing paradigm in the industry. Intel just needs a new vision to follow... or perhaps just a little bit of competition from another chip maker in order to get them to make improved products again rather than sad incremental upgrades to existing products.
    Reply
  • aldaia
    A friend of mine, who works in the semiconductor industry, made another interesting prediction: "Intel will go bankrupt before recognizing that Moore's Law is over" :-)
    Reply
  • sykozis
    Intel isn't going to admit that "Moore's Law" is over, until someone proves it publicly....
    Reply
  • anthony8989
    If you had read the first comment you would understand that Moore's Law ended a decade ago. They've been moving the goal post ever since.
    Reply
  • ykki
    15719085 said:
    Intel isn't going to admit that "Moore's Law" is over, until someone proves it publicly....
    AMD already did that. http://www.tomshardware.com/news/amd-apu-efficient-goal-moore,27099.html
    Reply
  • right2myopinion
    Say what you want, but Intel CPUs are currently the best. If "Moore's Law" is what's driving them to achieve higher standards, then by all means continue because we (the consumers) greatly benefit from it. I don't care if it's Intel, AMD, etc., competition is great for business and innovation. At first it was clock speed, then multi core, can't wait to see what's next.
    Reply
  • bin1127
    Since moore's law ushered in the age of semiconductors, the law will probably only fade away when a new law predicting a completely genuine type of computer processing is possible. Maybe quantum computing will finally retire moore's law and a whole new era to innovate begins anew.
    Reply
  • beetlejuicegr
    Since moore's law ushered in the age of semiconductors, the law will probably only fade away when a new law predicting a completely genuine type of computer processing is possible. Maybe quantum computing will finally retire moore's law and a whole new era to innovate begins anew.

    On the contrary, i believe that if a new technology of computing appear, the moore law will live again as the rise in performance every few years will skyrocket again.

    Think about it, we say the moore law is now out of sync as newer chips are say declining in the performance acceleration of the last decades.

    It is like when moore thought about his law. They were not making semiconductors as they were expensive right? And he did his research and foreseen that the new technology will rise etc.


    So it's the same now. Semiconductors are going 3D etc etc etc but at some point things will change. Who knows, optical chips? Crazy stuff? crystal like chips? who knows, but when this happens , the performance will go acceleration mode again rising and rising till the next tech advancement.

    Reply
  • kinggremlin
    Moore's law is truly an astounding principal, but it died some 10 years ago and Intel keeps redefining it in a weird fettish of keeping it true at all costs. It use to be the number of transistors per dollar, but then we started having so many transistors that this could not be sustained. Then it was effective processing power per dollar, which pushed them through another few generations... until raw performance hit a brick wall. Now it is popularly defined as performance per watt per dollar, which works out well right now as effective performance is at a near stand-still, but they are achieving that performance at lower and lower TDP. But that is only going to work for a few more years until they are done with their die-shrink campaign. It will be interesting to see how it gets redefined again in the next 5-10 years so that Intel can continue to claim that Moore's Law is still somehow with us.

    Don't get me wrong, the man was/is a visionary, and his 'Law' was totally unexpected but turned out to be very true for a very long time; truly a game changing paradigm in the industry. Intel just needs a new vision to follow... or perhaps just a little bit of competition from another chip maker in order to get them to make improved products again rather than sad incremental upgrades to existing products.

    Not sure what you are talking about. Moore's law has NEVER been a performance measure. The actual observation that Moore made was that transistor count would double every 2 years in a dense integrated circuit. That's it. He made other observations in the same paper, but that's the only one that is labeled Moore's Law.

    The only other interpretation of Moore's Law that I've heard is that performance will double every 18 months. This in fact was stated by another Intel exec, and was not a prediction made by Moore.

    Having followed the industry for 30 years, I've never heard of any of the other interpretations you stated. TDP? What on earth, such a measure didn't even exist when Moore made his observation.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    15721730 said:
    Not sure what you are talking about. Moore's law has NEVER been a performance measure. The actual observation that Moore made was that transistor count would double every 2 years in a dense integrated circuit. That's it. He made other observations in the same paper, but that's the only one that is labeled Moore's Law.

    The only other interpretation of Moore's Law that I've heard is that performance will double every 18 months. This in fact was stated by another Intel exec, and was not a prediction made by Moore.

    Having followed the industry for 30 years, I've never heard of any of the other interpretations you stated. TDP? What on earth, such a measure didn't even exist when Moore made his observation.

    That is exactly my point! But if you read the Moore's Law PR crap that comes out of Intel every few years you will find that they redefine it every few years to suit their whimsey. Moore's Law is dead, at least for transistor technology, and has been dead for a while, but they go through great lengths to redefine it every few years just so they can say it is alive and well. Sad thing is that Intel is the only ones who really care if Moore's Law is still around and they are starting to look a little silly.
    Reply