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Moore's law heads toward uncertain future

Posted: 21 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Texas Instruments? Moore's law? processor? Gordon Moore? electronics?

For the most part, advancements in electronics have revolved around the principles that define Moore's law. Fifty years since the "law" was first "enacted," there is now sufficient time to explore whether it is in fact a guiding light for the world of semiconductors, or simply a strict target that needs to be met every couple of years.

Few people know that McGraw-Hill invented the moniker "Electronics" in 1930 for its magazine on that subject. I joined Electronics on its 50th birthday, for which we did a special bound-book history of electronics including Gordon Moore's amazing accomplishments founding Fairchild Semiconductor and later co-founding Intel. However, it was on Electronics 35th birthday that Gordon Moore contributed an article titled "Cramming more components onto integrated circuits." In that article he speculated that the number of transistors on chips would "double every 12 months," which in 1975 he revised to every two years. Moore made no reference to a "law," but Caltech professor Carver Mead, who literally invented very-large-scale-integration (VLSI), popularised the notion of "Moore's law" as governing the way VLSI would grow the future of electronics.

Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce and Andy Grove

Intel, one of 13 semiconductor start-ups in Silicon Valley in 1968, was spun-off from Fairchild Semiconductor by Gordon Moore (right), Robert Noyce (centre) and Andy Grove (left) fulfilling the tenets of Moore's Law before it was even been named that by VLSI-mavin CalTech professor Carver Mead in 1975. (Source: McGraw-Hill's hardbound 50th anniversary issue of Electronics magazine in 1980.)

Since then, Moore's law has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as engineers around the world work feverishly to keep the growth of electronics exponential. Organisations such as the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) work behind the scenes to identify the hurdles that will need to be surmounted in order to keep Moore's law on track.

The enabler for Moore's law was the near simultaneous invention of the IC by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce at Fairchild, which matured into the complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) invented by Frank Wanlass in 1963 at Fairchild.

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