50 Years of Moore’s Law

May 26, 2015 | 09:14
Intel 2nd Generation Core microprocessor wafer codenamed "Sandy Bridge"
Intel 2nd Generation Core microprocessor wafer codenamed "Sandy Bridge"
This article originally appeared in Elektor.POST #118 on April 17, 2015. Don't miss any updates, take out a free membership to Elektor.POST.

You have to be an electronics enthusiast to recognize the importance of this date in history: On April 19, 2015 we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of that article published in the magazine Electronics (sadly off the shelves for the last 20 years). In that publication an article written by one of the co-founders of Fairchild (and later Intel) described his “law,” which states that the complexity of chips, i.e. the number of transistors in an IC, doubles approximately every year. This prediction turned out to be a slight exaggeration and ten years after his original claim Gordon Moore revised his calculations, saying that it would double every two years. This time he got it right!
 
The accuracy of his prediction is immediately apparent if you just plot a few examples of ICs produced over the last 50 years. The correlation is easier to see if we show the transistor count as a logarithmic function. Now plugging some values into the equations we get to the truly mind blowing bit: a doubling every two years over a 50-year period works out at 225 = 33,554,432 now if we take one of the most complex chips available today, the 15-core Xeon containing around 4,100,000,000 transistors, divide this number by the 33 million we calculated above and we get an IC containing approximately 120 transistors. That was exactly the complexity level of chips at the time Moore made his originally prediction… uncanny!
 
Moore's Law over time
Moore's Law over time

Well years go by and the electronics industry never fails to astound us with the latest amazingly powerful processor. Self-driving cars are also just around the corner and if we don’t keep an eye on them, in few years time, computers will be able to think as well as we can.
 
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