Electronics Components: Integrated Circuits and Moore’s Law
You’ve probably heard of Moore’s law, an electronics statement which in a nutshell predicts that the number of transistors that can be placed on a single integrated circuit doubles about every two years.
Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, first stated his prediction in 1965. Back then, the prediction was even more ambitious. Originally, Moore’s law said that the transistor count would double every year, not every two years. In the mid-1970s, the pace slowed a bit, so the prediction was scaled back.
Moore’s law states that the increase in complexity of electronic technology is exponential, not incremental as most technologies are. For example, consider the automotive industry, where gas mileage gets incrementally better every year. Gordon Moore said that if Moore’s law applied to automobiles, a Rolls-Royce would get half a million miles per gallon, and it would be cheaper to buy a new one than pay to park the one you have.
Several times over the years, scientists have feared that the end of Moore’s law was on the horizon, as the chip manufacturing technology was approaching some physical limit that could not be exceeded, such as the wavelength of the light used to etch the circuits.
But each time, some new technological breakthrough has enabled manufacturers to simply bypass the old limit. Moore’s law has held true now for nearly fifty years and is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.
One possible explanation for the uncanny accuracy of Moore’s law is that it has become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Integrated circuit manufacturers rely on Moore’s law to set their own engineering goals, and they then work feverishly to achieve those goals. Thus, Moore’s law has become the objective of the semiconductor industry.