It turns out that Gordon Moore never predicted that processing power would continue to double every two years.
What former Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel co-founder Moore wrote for Electronics Magazine in 1965 was that the costs of electronic components will be sufficiently depressed by demand to allow vendors to stuff more and more processing power onto a single chip. This has taken on a legendary status in the industry, an almost self-fulfilling false prophesy that has driven vendors to introduce ever-more-powerful devices to the market. But some believe we have reached a point where the cost of making tools required to keep making smaller and smaller components has finally outstripped the ability of vendors to sell them profitably. Hence, R.I.P. Moore's Law.
Indeed, Moore's observations about trends in transistor costs since their invention in 1958 are more prosaic than you might expect.
The complexity for minimum component costs 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. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000.Andy Bryant, Intel's chief administrative officer, told the Financial Times that "Moore's Law" is not so much about science as the business model that the science drives.
What Gordon said was the model is driven by the cost reductions that are allowed â€" the science takes the technology into more and more devices and the volume will explode because the cost comes down, so it is an economic model.And according to market research firm iSuppli, it has now become too expensive to build semiconductor manufacturing plants (fabs) economically enough to maintain those "nearly constant" increases. Len Jelinek, the firm's chief semiconductor industry analyst wrote:
The high cost of semiconductor manufacturing equipment is making continued chip-making advancements too expensive to use for volume production, relegating Moore's Law to the laboratory and altering the fundamental economics of the industry.What does this mean for the future of IT?
the industry will become more driven by economics than technology, with chip manufacturers attempting to squeeze as much as they can out of current geometries before moving on to the next level.Not the end of progress, but an era of innovation that seeks to make do with the status quo.
[Image source: Michael Cornellius via Flickr]