Moore’s Law B. 1965, D. 2015

David Patterson

Gordon Moore (Berkeley class of 1959) made the most incredible technology observation* on April 19, 1965 when he suggested that the number of transistors per integrated circuit would double every year, so that by 1975 there could be 65,000 transistors on a single chip when there were only 64 in 1965. It’s a bold prediction of exponential growth. ( See related article in Barrons ).

Here is his second paragraph on the consequences of such growth:

“Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers—or at least terminals connected to a central computer—automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment. The electronic wristwatch needs only a display to be feasible today.”

Moore’s Law lasted for half a century and changed the world as Moore predicted in his 1965 article, but it has ended. Chip technology is still improving, but not at the exponential rate predicted by Moore’s Law. In fact, each generation is taking longer than the previous one. For example, the biggest Intel microprocessor in 2011 used 2.3 billion transistors, and 4 years later the largest one is “only” 5.5 billion transistors. It’s still an amazing technology, and it will continue to improve, but not at the breathtaking rate of the past 50 years.

In 2003 Gordon Moore said

“No exponential is forever … but we can delay ‘forever’.”

Looks like forever was delayed another decade, but no more.

*Gordon E. Moore, “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits,” Electronics, pp. 114–117, April 19, 1965.