Santanu Das
Researcher

50 years of Moore’s law at Silicon Valley

  • December 11, 2015
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50 years of Moore’s law at Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley will forever refer to Gordon Moore as its initiator. This is due to the innovative idea known as ‘Moore’s law’, which helped to transform Silicon Valley from an idea into one of the most powerful and riches places in the world. Moore was just a 36 years old head of research at the Fairchild semiconductors when he made the proclamation. He predicted on an article published in a trade magazine about 50 years ago that computer chips will increase in their complexity, twice, every year. For the past 50 years, manufacturers of computer chips have proved him right – which has lead into the establishment of new companies that are shaping Silicon Valley and the world of computers to this day. 

Rob Enderle, a technology consultant said, “Moore’s law is definitely the heartbeat of the silicon valley. It helped propelled the valley at a speed rate that is unprecedented inhistory, allowing it to be the leader of technological advancement in the world”. The law was so effective that it become a mantra for people who are interested in the business of chip making. Those who follow the rules made more money, get more clients and evolved e.g.Intel, a company that Moore co-founded. Those who didn’t follow the law however, remained behind or died off. 

The law is responsible for all the development we have seen in the smartphone and mobile device industry. Now, people can carry smartphones – with greater capacity than the best computers made between 1965 and 1995 – in their pockets. Also without Moore’slaw, there won’t be small laptops, social media sites, chat networks, online video streaming or the cloud. Craig Hampel, a chief scientist at Rambus said, “It is the energy behind the information age. If you move around Silicon Valley now, you will notice that over 99% of the company you see here would never have existed if not for the idea propagated by Moore’s law. 

When Moore was asked by an Electronics Magazine to write about the future of integrated circuits, his response was clear and predictive. He understood that integrated circuits are the chips that are covered in silicon and holding transistors. The more transistors we have, the greater the capacity and efficiency. Putting into accounts how manufacturers of semiconductors are continuously shrinking transistors, he knows that will definitely allow more transistors to fit into the integrated circuit. Unlike his other colleagues, he knows this capacity will double every year, and will continue for at least 10 years. He wrote in the article that the result of this increase in capacity would lead to home computers that are more sophisticated, personal portable devices and automatic control of vehicles. 

Professor Carver Mead of the California Institute of Technology is the one responsible for coining the word Moore’s law. This becomes a guiding principle for companies to come out with very powerful computer chips. It is either you double the capacity of your chips or go out of business. However, the continued shrinking of transistors has given rise to many problems, making it harder to follow Moore’s law. But chip makers are looking for new materials for transistor manufacturing, so as to maintain the speed of their progress. 


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