The Enduring Power of Moore’s Law

At Wild Orange Media we’re often asked (and caught talking) about Moore’s Law, the exponential growth principle first documented in 1965. Gordon Moore. then just a young engineer, made the far-sighted observation that technology, largely powered by silicon microelectronics, could repeatedly double in power in a fairly predictable way. It’s a principle that has shaped the direction and pace of change of much of the world we live in.

Today, 50 years on from Moore’s ambitiousHow Micro SD cards have progressed from 128MB in 2005 to 128GB in 2014 prediction, we continue to benefit from exponential increases in computing power. The Apple A8 chip, found in the iPhone 6 and iPad Air, holds over two billion transistors. We’ve come a very long way from Intel’s first 4004 microprocessor in 1971, itself a true feat of engineering brilliance, which contained just 2,300 transistors.

But we’re not done yet. In Moore’s Law terms, the computing era has barely begun. While processor clock speeds levelled off around a decade ago, the era of multicore computing has helped ensure the doubling of computing power continues today approximately every two years. And so we can look forward to ever faster, smaller, lighter, more powerful computing changing our lives for the rest of our lives.

As Chris Mack observed in his Build Better Metrology speech earlier this year:

Fifty years of mind-numbingly fast progress have turned a hundred dollar chip with a few dozen transistors into a 10 dollar chip with a few billion transistors. Much of what we enjoy about modern life is a direct result of this progress.

And it’s Moore’s Law, of course, that explains why every piece of technology we have or will ever own is technologically obsolete before it reaches our hands. With R&D cycles lasting many months, if not years, whatever smartphone, tablet, laptop or wearable computing you are sporting today would be put to shame by the new products slowly working their way through the prototyping to manufacturing to retail process.

Technological progress is both predictable and unstoppable. The change we experience today is far slower than that we will encounter in the years ahead. So enjoy whatever tech gadgets you currently own, but never lose sight of the inescapable truth that very soon you will be looking back and wondering how we ever survived with such rudimentary kit.

To learn more about Moore’s Law, there’s a nice little report available for free download from the American Enterprise Institute website. Enjoy!