By John Paul Mueller, Luca Massaron

In 1965, Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor, wrote in an article titled “Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits” that the number of components found in integrated circuits would double every year for the next decade. At that time, transistors dominated electronics. Being able to stuff more transistors into an Integrated Circuit (IC) meant being able to make electronic devices more capable and useful. This process is called integration and implies a strong process of electronics miniaturization (making the same circuit much smaller). Today’s computers aren’t all that much smaller than computers of a decade ago, yet they are decisively more powerful. The same goes for mobile phones. Even though they’re the same size as their predecessors, they have become able to perform more tasks.

What Moore stated in that article has actually been true for many years. The semiconductor industry calls it Moore’s Law. Doubling did occur for the first ten years, as predicted. In 1975, Moore corrected his statement, forecasting a doubling every two years. This figure shows the effects of this doubling. This rate of doubling is still valid, although now it’s common opinion that it won’t hold longer than the end of the present decade (up to about 2020). Starting in 2012, a mismatch began to occur between expected speed increases and what semiconductor companies can achieve with regard to miniaturization.

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Stuffing more and more transistors into a CPU.

Physical barriers exist to integrating more circuits on an IC using the present silica components because you can make things only so small. However, innovation continues. In the future, Moore’s Law may not apply because industry will switch to a new technology (such as making components by using optical lasers instead of transistors). What matters is that since 1965, the doubling of components every two years has ushered in great advancements in digital electronics that has had far-reaching consequences in the acquisition, storage, manipulation, and management of data.

Moore’s Law has a direct effect on data. It begins with smarter devices. The smarter the devices, the more diffusion (as evidenced by electronics being everywhere today). The greater the diffusion, the lower the price becomes, creating an endless loop that drives the use of powerful computing machines and small sensors everywhere. With large amounts of computer memory available and larger storage disks for data, the consequences are an expansion of data availability, such as websites, transaction records, measurements, digital images, and other sorts of data.