This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

What’s Next?

Gordon MooreApril 19, 1965:

Moore’s Law Proposed

Gordon Moore publishes an article in Electronic Magazine that proposes that computing power has been roughly doubling every 12 months due to research and improvements in the field and that this trend is likely to continue in the future. In 1975, this is revised to every 18 months and is termed to be ‘Moore’s Law’.

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There’s a joke about personal computers that has been around almost as long as the devices have been on the market: You buy a new computer, take it home and just as you finish unpacking it you see an advertisement for a new computer that makes yours obsolete.

While the joke is obviously an exaggeration, it’s not that far off the mark.  Even one of today’s modest personal computers has more processing power and storage space than the famous Cray-1 supercomputer.  In 1976, the Cray-1 was state-of-the-art:  it could process 160 million floating-point operations per second (flops) and had 8 megabytes (MB) of memory.

The 256 MB USB flash drive used to cost as much as the 1 GB flash drive. The 8 GB flash drive on Amazon . . . seven bucks!

The 256 MB USB flash drive used to cost as much as the 1 GB flash drive. The 8 GB flash drive on Amazon . . . seven bucks!

Today, many personal computers can perform more than 10 times that number of floating-point operations in a second and have 100 times the amount of memory.

The trend has continued for more than half a century.  Sources in 2005 expected it to continue until at least 2015 or 2020.  However, the 2010 update to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors has growth slowing at the end of 2013, after which time transistor counts and densities are to double only every three years.

Moore’s Law Explained

The age of digital electronics is usually said to have begun in 1947, when a research team at Bell Laboratories designed the first transistor. But Moore’s Law, the driving force of the digital era, is pegged to another, lesser-known landmark: the invention of the integrated circuit. John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley won a Nobel Prize for the transistor. Jack Kilby, the Texas Instruments engineer who came up with the integrated circuit, didn’t win anything. But in many ways it was his creation, not the transistor, that most shook the world.

What’s next?

The smallest transistor ever built has been created using a single phosphorous atom by an international team of researchers at the University of New South Wales, Purdue University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney.

“This is a beautiful demonstration of controlling matter at the atomic scale to make a real device,” Simmons says. “Fifty years ago when the first transistor was developed, no one could have predicted the role that computers would play in our society today.

The single-atom transistor could lead the way to building a quantum computer that works by controlling the electrons and thereby the quantum information, or qubits.

“Whilst this result is a major milestone in scalable silicon quantum computing, it does not answer the question of whether quantum computing is possible or not,” Simmons says. “The answer to this lies in whether quantum coherence can be controlled over large numbers of qubits. The technique we have developed is potentially scalable, using the same materials as the silicon industry, but more time is needed to realize this goal.”

single atom trans

Adam & Jamie of Myth Busters on Moore’s Law

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