Published in PC Hardware

Moore's Law did not turn 50 over the weekend

by on20 April 2015

But I nearly am damnit 

While the press is banging on about Moore's Law turning 50 over the weekend, like many things in the US press, it is completely wrong.

While 1965 is famous for the so called discovery of Moore's Law and happens to be the year of my birth, it is not the Moore's Law that many believe.

Intel co-founder, Gordon Moore was supposed to have outlined Moore's Law in a paper for Electronics magazine in 1965 which claimed that the numbers of components on a chip would double each year.

However this is an industry myth. Moore never stated in that article what would become Moore's Law. The 1965 paper focuses heavily on how many components can fit on a circuit, and which factors will impact that growing number; but it wasn't until 1975 that the idea that transistors would double every year or two emerged.

While the paper can be viewed as something that gave rise to Moore's Law it is not even close to announcing the final result. What did does mark is a period that the now legendary law, the paper marked the start of a new movement. It also showed considerable foresight on Moore's part.

For example in a section that deals with the cost of building t circuits, Moore explains that the cost of squeezing in additional components falls until the yield levels fall. Then costs tend to increase dramatically.

As components are added, decreased yields more than compensate for the increased complexity and raise the cost per component. Moore said that there would be a minimum cost at any given time in the evolution of the technology.

Moore added that by 1970, the manufacturing cost per component can be expected to be only a tenth of the present cost.
It appears that Moore might have had an outline for his law in his head when he states that in 1965, roughly five components per circuit. In 1970, he expected "about 1,000." It is close to a yearly doubling, but he did not come out and say it.

The paper never discusses the number of transistors on a chip. In fact, he only mentions the term "transistors" twice.
However in 1975, Moore formalized the concept when he revised his original notion, and said the number of integrated circuit (IC) components woulddouble every two years. This could probably be considered the birth of Moores Law.

The writer would welcome anyone who can prove that he was born in 1975 rather than 1965.

Last modified on 20 April 2015
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